ST. LOUIS -- With the Los Angeles Dodgers trying to mount one last push for a sixth straight National League West title, manager Dave Roberts is tweaking his starting rotation. Back for good is righty Ross Stripling, and out is lefty Alex Wood.
Roberts said Stripling would start on Thursday before the start of a big four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
"We're pushing (Hyun-Jin) Ryu to Monday. And we're going to put Alex Wood in the pen for the foreseeable future, unless something changes," Roberts said. "Two reasons: No. 1 is that he's done it before and he's really flourished in that role, and we expect him to throw leverage innings and dominate. That's probably the main reason. And we're going to go with five starters."
Wood, an All-Star last season, struggled in his most recent outings, but remains tied for the L.A. team lead in wins (8), leads the club in innings (148) and sports a 3.65 ERA. Wood gave up six earned runs over 3 2/3 innings in his last start, a loss at Cincinnati on Monday.
Wood's average fastball velocity this season (89.9 mph, according to fangraphs.com) is down by nearly 2 mph over last season. However, last season, Wood topped out at nearly 96 mph when working out of the pen, a scenario Roberts thinks can be repeated.
"From what's happened in past years, whether it's last year or two years ago, it did play up," Roberts said. "Logic says that (it will happen again). We'll see how it is. I expect him to get guys out and help us win."
Meantime, Stripling will be returning to the starting role in which he flourished earlier this season. Thrust into the rotation because of numerous injuries to the Dodgers' staff, Stripling went 8-3 with a 2.92 ERA before being shifted back to the bullpen in early August. He started at Cincinnati on Wednesday, going just 3 1/3 innings and allowing one run. Now Stripling will get a chance to build his innings count back up to where it was a month ago.
"Ross will make that start on Sunday, then you're looking at that (next) Friday, or something like that," Roberts said. "(Wood is) still getting guys out consistently, and we all know he's going to compete as well as anybody. I think from an outside-looking-in type thing as an organization, we have to do what we feel is best. This is a tough decision. We just feel right now, the five guys we're going to run out there every fifth day give us a chance."
Wood has not worked in relief this season but has made 37 appearances out of the bullpen during his big league career, with a 2.53 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. Wood pitched two scoreless innings of relief in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, which the Dodgers dropped to the Houston Astros. The mild-mannered lefty took the news of his role change in stride.
"It was received well," Roberts said. "Obviously, he sees himself as a starter and we do as well. Right now, where we're at with the roster, there has got to be some concessions made by a lot of people. He received it like a professional and said he'd do whatever we expect. And I expected that.
"We kind of have him down until Saturday or Sunday until he's ready to pitch. In what capacity ... it's probably an inning or two at a time. He's going to help us pitch big innings."