LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 06: Hyun-Jin Ryu #99 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium on September 6, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images) By Stephen Dunn
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Dodgers are heading into the postseason healthier than they were a year ago, and they hope it holds up.
The NL West champions have some question marks on their roster, most notably involving 14-game winner Hyun-Jin Ryu and second baseman Dee Gordon. They're using the four days before the NL Division Series against St. Louis begins on Friday to heal up.
Ryu is set to throw a simulated game Wednesday as he rehabs from shoulder inflammation. The left-hander hasn't pitched in a game since Sept. 12, when he was removed after one inning. The Dodgers foresee him starting Game 3 in St. Louis on Oct. 6.
"I feel good and I'm ready to throw tomorrow," Ryu said through a translator.
The South Korean pitcher was on the disabled list twice during the regular season, including missing nearly a month with the same problem, and bounced back each time.
In his first game back on May 21 against the Mets, Ryu pitched six innings and allowed two earned runs while striking out nine.
"It helps to know both times in the regular season I had good games and I'm very encouraged by that," he said. "I don't see why this time would be different."
Gordon left a game last Saturday because of irritation in his right hip, an issue that bothered him in June, too. He downplayed it during Tuesday's workout at Dodger Stadium, suggesting others are making too big a deal of it.
"It was something that was just tight," he said.
The Dodgers need a healthy Gordon on the basepaths. Their leadoff hitter led the major leagues with 64 steals.
With Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1 for the Dodgers against Adam Wainwright, offense could be at a premium, making it crucial to get extra bases.
"When he goes, we go," slugger Matt Kemp said of Gordon. "We need him on base to create havoc and keep these pitchers working."
Gordon was thrown out 19 times and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina will surely challenge him. Molina threw out nearly half the potential base stealers (21 of 44 runners) against him.
"The Cardinals are pretty well-schooled on being quick. Usually a pitching staff will neutralize the running game," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Dee has the maturity of (knowing) when you don't run."
A year ago, the Dodgers were missing Kemp, who sat out the postseason because of a sprained left ankle that had him wearing a boot and using crutches.
"I wasn't the most happiest person in the world," he said. "I was being the biggest cheerleader in the world. It was bittersweet. Mentally it was very tough."
Now, the right fielder comes into the playoffs as one of baseball hottest hitters over the last month. Kemp led the majors with nine home runs — tying teammate Adrian Gonzalez for the major league lead in RBIs with 25 — in September and led the NL with 63 total bases and 21 runs scored. He batted .322 down the stretch, and on Tuesday was named the league's player of the month.
Kemp ended the regular season with 25 homers and 89 RBIs, his highest totals in both categories since 2011, when he led the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs.
Kemp was already anticipating the playoff atmosphere at Dodger Stadium on Friday.
"The fans are going to be excited," he said. "Fifty-five thousand towels waving in the stands is a sight to see."