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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Dodgers kept a close eye on the Cardinals

By Mark Saxon

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are sparing no expense this postseason. In addition to a player payroll that set a National League record, they've beefed up their scouting efforts down to the most-minute detail.

They've had two scouts on every contending team in the National League since mid-September. Against the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, those scouts -- Willie Fraser and John Sanders -- had daily meetings with the Dodgers coaches and, occasionally, with Dodgers players.

They continued to scout the Braves throughout the series, helping the Dodgers make game-by-game adjustments.

Typically, advance scouts file their reports and meet with coaches once before every series. The new approach will continue in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals and, should that series go well, the World Series.

"As adaptations were needed, whether it was a hitter's positioning at the plate or a pitcher starting to lower his arm slot once in a while, it was duly noted," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.

In many respects, the Pittsburgh Pirates would have been a better matchup for the Dodgers. Like the Braves, they hit home runs but also strike out frequently. The Cardinals have a deeper, more balanced lineup. They lead the league in runs and on-base percentage and had five players finish in the top 17 in the NL in OPS.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that, when the Dodgers were in St. Louis in early August, they identified the Cardinals as the team to beat in the NL Central.

"They've got a good mix of everything," Mattingly said. "They've got a lot of good young players; they've got power arms in their bullpen; they've got power arms starting; they've got some veterans who hit the ball out of the ballpark."

Contract talks on hold

Colletti said there have been no recent discussions with Mattingly about his future beyond this season, which means the Dodgers have yet to pick up his 2014 option or sign him to a multi-year deal. However, Colletti wouldn't rule out that something could happen this postseason.

"I don't sense he's worried about it, I'm not worried about it, and it's going to end up in a place where it should end up," Colletti said.

Mattingly said he didn't want to discuss his contract during the postseason.

Pitching plans

Two days after starting Clayton Kershaw on three days' rest for the first time in Kershaw's career, Mattingly called it "an easy decision." However, he said he wouldn't likely use Zack Greinke on short rest.

Greinke will pitch Game 1, followed by Kershaw. Presumably, Greinke would then pitch Game 5 and Kershaw would go in Game 6, if they are necessary. If the Dodgers were willing to use Greinke on short rest, he could pitch Game 7, but that sounds unlikely. So, the Dodgers could be relying on Hyun-Jin Ryu, who struggled in his first postseason start, in the game that could decide their World Series fate.

"I think Clayton's just a different animal," Mattingly said. "As far as the physical side, he's had zero issues this year. Zack's had little stuff going back to spring training [his elbow], then the shoulder thing happen during the season. It just doesn't seem like the same thing."

Ryu gave up four runs and six hits in three innings of Game 3 on Sunday night. He looked a bit nervous, making two key fielding mistakes.

Both Mattingly and Colletti said they've been assured Ryu is healthy. Colletti said there have been no recent MRI exams or X-rays.

Ethier possible

Andre Ethier's activities during Wednesday's workout were virtually the same as in each of the past few weeks. He took batting practice, but in damp, cool conditions, the Dodgers did not risk having him run to test his injured left shin by running the bases.

Mattingly said he's hopeful Ethier can do more than pinch hit at some point in the series. Ethier went 0-for-3 pinch hitting in the NLDS. His replacement in center field, Skip Schumaker, batted .231 in 13 at-bats.