LOS ANGELES – If the Cubs face the Dodgers in the playoffs, they also face the likelihood of getting their first look in more than a year at three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw, who’s on the disabled list with a lower back injury, threw a bullpen session Friday and expects to return to action next month for the NL West leaders. The Cubs missed Kershaw’s turn in the rotation during their four-game series three months ago at Wrigley Field.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he wished the Cubs could have faced Kershaw this weekend, but not for the potential scouting advantage.
“I’ve always wanted us to play the other team’s best team. Always,” Maddon said. “At the end of the day, you always like your best group against their best group, and let’s go. That’s always optimal.”
Instead, the Cubs – who beat the Dodgers three of four in the Wrigley Series – expect to face a pair of rookies the final two days of the series.
Left-hander Julio Urias (4-2, 3.95), 19, starts Saturday, the Dodgers said Friday. The Cubs beat him 7-2 in his second big-league game, June 2.
The Dodgers recalled right-hander Brock Stewart (0-2, 11.25) from the minors, and he’s expected to start against the Cubs Sunday unless he’s needed out of the bullpen before that.
The beat-up Dodgers have used 14 different starting pitchers because of injuries. The Cubs, by contrast, have had one member of their opening starting rotation go on the DL the last two seasons combined.
It’s the first season since 2009 they haven’t faced Kershaw (5-3, 2.18 in eight career starts vs. Cubs).
Stairway to the clouds
Maddon and retiring catcher David Ross spent time before Friday’s series opener in the broadcast booth with legend Vin Scully, and presented Scully with the No. 67 from the Wrigley Field scoreboard as well as the Dodgers banner that flew over Wrigley.
Scully is retiring after 67 years broadcasting Dodger games.
“He’s just a different human being, and I really feel fortunate I’ve been able to exchange a handshake and have a photograph,” said Maddon, who first met Scully when invited to the booth before a game at Dodger Stadium last year for a pregame chat/interview.
“You’re ascending into the clouds when you see Mr. Scully,” Maddon said.
Maybe that’ll be the next Maddon T-shirt. For now, Scully has one of each of Maddon’s current themed T-shirts, thanks to the other presentation made by the manager Friday.
Starter John Lackey (shoulder) and setup ace Hector Rondon (triceps) both played catch again Friday before the game and fared well, pitching coach Chris Bosio said.
They’ll be evaluated again Saturday before looking at possible higher-intensity bullpen sessions.
“Probably right after the first they should be ready to come [off the DL],” Maddon said.
Setup man Pedro Strop, who suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee Aug. 10, has been posting instagram clips of his rehab treadmill work, and the team anticipates a return closer to the front end than back end of the original four-to-six-week timeline.
“It’s like you’ve got to say, `Hey, hold on here, buddy,’ “ Maddon said. “He’s making great progress.”
Notes: Maddon said he and the front office still have not discussed who will be promoted when rosters expand for the final month Thursday. Most of the additions are expected to be the pitchers returning from the DL as well as the return from demotion of infielder Tommy La Stella and from the DL of outfielder Chris Coghlan (ribs). … Right-hander Joe Smith (hamstring) starts a minor-league rehab assignment Saturday with Class AAA Iowa. … Maddon on former football quarterback Tim Tebow, 29, trying to play professional baseball: “I saw his swing on the video. It was a decent hack. If he wants to give it a run, go for it.” The Cubs said this week they’re undecided about attending Tebow’s showcase for scouts next week in Los Angeles.