LOS ANGELES - Surprise, surprise. After all these years, Joe Torre can still pull a stunner.
When Torre announced his rotation yesterday for the National League Championship Series against the Phillies, it offered more than one unexpected development.
He chose young lefthander Clayton Kershaw to pitch tonight's opener, and then instead of coming back with Randy Wolf - who started the Dodgers' division-series opener against the Cardinals - he tabbed Vicente Padilla for Game 2.
Then when the series moves back to Philadelphia for Game 3, he'll start Hiroki Kuroda, who has been out with a herniated disk in his neck. The righthander was not on the team's roster for the series against the Cardinals and has not pitched since throwing four innings Sept. 28.
Wolf is scheduled to start Game 4 at Citizens Bank Park, meaning he'll go 12 days between starts.
That also means Chad Billingsley is going to the bullpen, and veteran Jon Garland might not make the NLCS roster, which will be announced today.
Kershaw is a 21-year-old phenom, but in two starts against the Phillies this season, he is 0-2 with a 5.23 ERA.
In his 28-year managerial career, Torre has shown a postseason tendency to go with the hot hand. Kershaw pitched the team's division-clinching victory over the Rockies and then went 62/3 strong innings in the Dodgers' Game 2 victory over the Cards.
Torre said he was no longer concerned that Kershaw would struggle in the postseason spotlight.
"We handed him the ball to basically win the division for us, where if we had lost that game on Saturday, we'd have been tied with the Rockies with one game to play," Torre said.
Kershaw threw six shutout innings against the Rockies, striking out 10.
Wolf appeared clearly disappointed about being pushed back to Game 4, but he was careful not to complain.
"I feel like I have an opportunity in Game 4 to help out our club," the lefthander said.
The former Phillie started a team-high 34 games for the Dodgers this season, going 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA. In two starts against the Phillies, he went 1-1 with a 5.11 ERA.
The selection of Padilla to start Game 2 continues an astonishing rebirth for the former Phillies righthander. Padilla made so many enemies in the Texas clubhouse because of his supposed attitude that the Rangers released him Aug. 18 and ate the rest of his contract.
But he has pitched terrifically for the Dodgers, going 4-0 with a 3.20 ERA in the regular season and then throwing seven shutout innings in the clinching Game 3 against the Cardinals.
"I thought his command and stuff was great," Torre said. "Handling the whole St. Louis scene, I think that told us a lot."
Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt went to Arizona on Tuesday to watch Kuroda pitch in an instructional game before tabbing him for Game 3.
Kuroda beat the Phillies in last year's NLCS.