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Dodgers: Dave Roberts Defends Using Starting Pitchers in Relief



The Dodgers come back to Los Angeles in the NLCS down 2 games to nothing. And with those 2 early losses in the series, there are bound to be controversies and criticisms from fans and media. That has led to Dave Roberts being questioned about decisions he made in those first couple of games in Atlanta. 

One of the biggest criticism so far has been the pitching usage. The Dodgers started off the series with a bullpen game and then ended up using Julio Urias in relief in Game 2. That has become more of an issue now that Julio may not be ready to pitch in Game 4. 

On Monday afternoon, Doc spoke about the usage and the criticisms that have come along with it. The Dodgers skipper defended the moves that they have made so far and said that he still stands by the direction they’re going with arms. 

Different doesn’t mean it’s wrong. A decision that doesn’t work out doesn’t mean it’s the wrong decision. So I do know that everyone in that clubhouse believes that we’re going about it the right way and no one is compromised…

Roberts went on to talk about the Julio usage on Sunday that has implications for Game 4. Doc noted that the Dodgers planned on throwing a bullpen game regardless at some point, so his usage shouldn’t make a difference. 

Dodgers Related: Julio Urias May Not Be Ready for Game 4

We planned on a bullpen game either Game 4 or Game 5 this series. So I don’t think that using Julio in Game 2 – 1 or 2 – changed that. So I don’t see the cost. Things just can’t be scripted. You’ve got to kind of sometimes go off script to what we feel, what I feel is the best chance to win a game, let alone a particular series.

On one hand, this is unlike any other postseason that we’ve seen Roberts manage. He’s been unpredictable and working with the best arms that he has available. Is that a good thing for the Dodgers? The next couple of games will let us know. 

Dodgers: Joc Pederson Has No Love For His Former Team This Postseason

Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. Brook, this is simply DR having to “toe the company line.” What’s he going to come out and say? I messed up and it’s on me? Actually I have seen him do that before though. I can recall him on a couple of accounts say “it was my call and it’s on me.”

    • The team discusses different scenarios and players before games but in game calls are on Roberts. He decided to use Julio in that situation. No one calls the dugout from on high during games.

      • Absolutely correct. Roberts the Clown is just a major clueless [email protected]ck-up and should have never been hired by Andrew Friedbrain. Roberts the Clown knows he’s an idiot and is constantly trying to cover it up. I grew up with Alston and Lasorda — great stategists and motivators, something Roberts the Clown definitely is not.

        • Mqarep, we can all point to managerial failures by anyone. Would you care for me to point out a couple of gems by Alston and Lasorda? Ok, Alston finishes the the 1962 season losing 10 of the last 13 to let the Giants tie the Dodgers for the NL West. Then in Game 3 of the 3 game tie breaker blows a 4-2 lead going into the top of the 9th at the Ravine and loses 4-6. No Ws for the Dodgers.

          Lasorda loses back-to-back WS to the Yankees and goes down 0-2 to the Yankees again before winning 4 in a row to finally beat them in 1981.

          Every damn manager makes mistakes. It’s just the way it is.

        • I think that’s a little harsh. But I agree with you and I agree with Houston Mitchell. If you are going by analytics, Urias has not fared well the entire year in his first inning of work. It also jeopardizes the complete starting pitching lineup going back to LA. And the Dodgers led by 2 runs. How long ago was it that Dodger relievers gave up 2 runs in 3 innings? The Dodgers had lots of good relief in the bullpen who were also rested and available. It was a HUGE managerial mistake, plain and simple. And don’t get me wrong, I like Roberts, but it was a very poor strategic decision. It very well could define the loss of the series.

    • 4Life….

      Agree with you there…. I think the FO has a lot more say in the daily ops then we know or are aware of.

      Could be the reason they keep a manager like Roberts around, who is happy to be a ‘yes man’.

      You wonder if Andrew F could handle a manager like Lasorda…

      Just spit ballin’ like Gaylord Perry….

  2. Wha’t the most stubborn manager in baseball going to say? That he made a mistake? Using Urias in Game 2 was so unnecessary. Extend Kelly, Trienen, etc. to hand it off to Jansen. Stay away from starters unless you’re out of choices or the situation calls it. I swear sometimes I just want the Dodgers to lose so they fire his ass. I don’t mind losing as much as I mind stupidity.

  3. Chi’s Russo torched Roberts and the Dodgers FO about the Urias decision. I don’t know if he was right but it was entertaining!
    He did say something interesting. If the Urias decision was scripted by FO than why wasn’t Friedman explaining to the media instead of leaving Roberts to “swing in the breeze?”

    • Ok DR bashers. I’ll give you this one. I think bringing in Urias wasn’t a good move either. There you go. Dodgers have plenty of great relief pitchers to get the job done. I’m not a big fan of bringing in starters to close games. It’s a different mindset.

    • Russo is a big Giants fan and absolutely hates giving the Dodgers any credit so you take what he says with a grain of salt. However, Alanna Rizzo who loves the Dodgers disagreed with the call as well.

  4. That anyone would want to continue an action proved to be wrong is just plain nuts.

    Starters and relievers are totally different types of pitchers. And using a starter to relieve, when you’ve already got the best relief corps in baseball, is dumb baseball. Urias was a great reliever in the WS last year because he wasn’t also a starter.

    Starters routines a couple of days before their scheduled start are methodical, where they aren’t yet ready to throw at full capacity as they will in their upcoming game. And, even in their game, they time themselves to start slowly to build up to the middle innings without tiring out early. Relievers go full steam from their first pitch because there will be no length to their game.

    Before Game 2 had started, Scherzer told Roberts that his arm was feeling wonky as an aftershock to the WC game in SF. It was obvious that he wasn’t quite right in Game 2, no matter how hard he tried.

    So, what does Roberts do? Two games from his starting appearance and a couple of days from his next start, he put Urias into a high leverage inning to keep the Braves cool. Why bother with real relievers like Graterol and Bruill who the previous game were lights out in their one inning and were ready to go.

    Roberts likes to talk about “matchups”, which is nothing more than a euphemism for “just do what the computer says to do”.

    This isn’t managing. It’s just plain dumb.

  5. Here is an interesting comparison. Aaron Boone NY Yankee manager, career W/L .601 (pretty darn good), no WS appearances. Just got renewed through 2025. First Yankee manager since 1922 to be allowed to manage a 5th year without a WS appearance. Big market, big payroll, lots of talent. You get my point!

    • Personally I think the Yankees should have replaced him. A lot of the problem could be placed on the GM but he’s not going anywhere. Pitching sucked – both starters and bullpen – and nobody hit outside of Judge and Stanton – but the team collapsed down the stretch. That’s generally a sign of players not playing for him.

  6. I’ve been a Dodgers fan (and universally a baseball fan) for 65 years (yes, really!). And, one thing I’ve never understood are managers, who after a winning season that brought them into the postseason, suddenly changing the way they strategize.

    More specifically, Dave Roberts has said, with imperial wisdom, that “we’re going to change things around it bit” before the NLCS.

    He wins 106 games during the regular season, and then suddenly now that he’s playing against teams he’s already beaten during the season, he decides to change what brought the team into the postseason in the first place.

    We’ve seen this before with disastrous results from managers with like thinking.

    Should I predict that in the late innings of Game 5 we’ll see Buehler warming up?

  7. The article about what took place in the bubble was spot on. This year is quite different than 2020. Because something worked last year, doesn’t mean it should be again this year. I’m referring to the use of Urias out of the pen.

    My biggest criticism thus far in the NLCS is the underutilization of Joe Kelly who has been absolutely untouchable by the Braves. Let the guy do his job!

  8. The sooner they get rid of this nitwit the better off we will be! What a shame. A great season slipping away because of idiotic decisions!

    • Could be, but I’m still going hold off my epitaph until it is finally done…if Dodgers lose game 3, I’ll have my pen ready just in case lol.

  9. Time to fire this idiot. Any time he faces criticisms, he always comes up with an excuse. This man is delusional.

      • You’re missing the point as usual. Who cares how any of us would handle criticism? This guy makes some of the worst choices in history too often, occasionally would be ok but it’s too often and in the playoffs. I don’t think any elite manager in baseball would’ve done that. You use starters in desperate situations like when your bullpen is depleted or your closer is tanking too often. Neither was the case, we had a set up man and a lights out Jansen

        • How did it work out for Mike Shildt? Sets a franchise record winning streak, loses the WC and out of a job. Roberts record in elimination games is pretty good so far. Just sayin

          • Let’s just hope that Shildt’s firing prompts Arenado to opt out and join the Dodgers for 2022!

          • Shildt deserved it for using their worst reliever in that situation. He threw away everything they accomplished in September

    • It’s comments like this I find so completely unnecessary. IMHO they serve no purpose, other than the possible release of frustration (which I get.)

  10. I’ve said before but had the offense been a little better in the clutch situations instead of going 5 for 43 with RISP in the last 5 games, Scherzer would not have had to close game 5 in SF and Urias would not have had to come in relief in game 2 on Sunday. If Dodgers lose this series, it will be due to an inept offense in the clutch. BP games? Not ideal in the PS. But IIWII.

    • Paul … Gotta disagree. 2 run lead to start the 8th with a BP that had been dominate. They had Bickman, Bruili, Graterol, and Jansen still in the pen. You must close it out and head home with a chance to end it there. You don’t have to score 5 or more runs to win a ballgame.

      • Bum4ever, thank you! I’ve tried on numerous occasions to enlighten Paul on this but he won’t budge. Just like a broken record.

        • Insults are not necessary. If you feel scoring just a couple runs should be good enough, fine. Sometimes it is actually. But in this case the Dodgers had several opportunities to score more and put pressure on the Braves but failed to do so. You watch what happens for rest of this NLCS. If Dodgers lose this series, most likely it’s because of this offense that at times disappears. No matter what, if the opponent outscore your team, you will lose the game, even if it’s just a 3 to 2 game or something like that.

          • up 4-2 late in a game is plenty! That’s all you need to win a ball game, especially when you have your top 3-4 relievers ready to go.

      • Sometimes that’s what it takes. Ya can’t expect to hold the opponent to just 1 or 2 runs every night. Dodgers were up 4 to 2 but had the bases full and with a chance to put the Braves away, Pollock struck out to end the inning. Earlier Dodgers had a runner on 3rd with less than 2 out and FAILED to bring in that run. Few other chances during those 1st 2 games to take pressure on whoever is pitching and the offense lays an egg. Again, the Braves may have won only 88 games but they still have a solid lineup, even without Soler. Sorry but sometimes 3 or 4 runs are not enough. Dodgers had several chances to create more breathing room but they failed in the clutch on several occasions. That’s why I said before that as the Dodger offense goes, so go the Dodgers. Just my viewpoint here.

        • Paul, I will apologize if I offended you. Not really what I was going for there. Everyone is entitled to their own viewpoint. I guess the thing I was trying to get across is that yes offense is most definitely important, however there many ways to obtain a victory. Baseball has two sides to it. To simply only focus on one side is short-sighted IMHO. Again, please accept my apologies. After-all I do enjoy reading your comments, such as the one about the DH last year which I forgot about.

          Let’s go Dodgers!

        • Paul … I agree the team has left too many runners in scoring position and Pollock’s K was like an exclamation point but there were 2 outs and 2 runs in. The team had enough to win and let it slip away.

  11. Here is postseason baseball in a nutshell:

    As a batter, if your approach is off, you get carved up like a Thanksgiving Turkey by a good pitcher.

    As a pitcher, if you hang a curveball, Joc will show you his pearls!

  12. Leave it to Dave Roberts to step all over his own wang. How is he still the Dodgers manager after all his jackups over the years? The Dodgers win in spite of him, not because of him. True, the manager doesn’t play the game but he is the one who has to put the right players in the right situations to give the team the best chance to win. He fails on that front.

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