Notes: Postseason plans in flux

Notes: Postseason plans in flux

SAN FRANCISCO -- Grady Little deflected question after question about the importance of beating the Giants on Sunday, of trying to win the division and start the playoffs at home against St. Louis instead of in New York against the Mets.

"We play 161 games to get into the postseason and today we're starting to prepare for the postseason. It's that simple," the Dodgers manager said.

When asked whether he preferred to play the Mets or the Cardinals, he said: "Personally, I don't care."

He had just posted a starting lineup for the final regular-season game that not only had rookie Eric Stults the starting pitcher, but did not include position starters Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, Kenny Lofton, J.D. Drew or Marlon Anderson.

In preparation for the postseason, Little gave just a glimpse of his starting pitching plans. The only thing certain is that Derek Lowe will start Game 1 regardless of the opponent or location. After that, nothing is certain.

Little seems to be leaning toward starting Greg Maddux at home regardless, so Maddux would be the Game 2 starter in a series that opens at Dodger Stadium, or the Game 3 starter against the Mets.

Little was relatively satisfied that Brad Penny's back will allow him to pitch, but revealed that Penny could be a reliever instead of a starter, especially in a series that starts in Los Angeles, with Hong-Chih Kuo picking up a start in either series. Kuo appears the leading candidate to start a Game 2 in New York, particularly after having thrown six scoreless innings at Shea Stadium last month.

"We like him to pitch there because of the success he had in his first start," Little said of Kuo.

"We know what this guy's done before in his career and he could be a tremendous asset not starting," he said of Penny. "If we go with three starters in a short series, we may feel he's more beneficial going one or two innings hard out of the 'pen. With the condition of his back, we may opt to do that."

Little said a decision to put Penny in the bullpen would be because of his back, not because his performance dropped in the second half of the season.

Because of differing series schedules, the Dodgers could get by with three starters if they are the division champs, with Lowe and Maddux pitching twice each and Maddux in a Game 5 on three days' rest. If the Dodgers are the Wild Card opposing the Mets, Lowe could pitch Game 4 on three days' rest or Game 5.

Roster decisions: The Dodgers are thinking of carrying a 10-man pitching staff in the postseason, which means pitchers like Aaron Sele, Chad Billingsley and Elmer Dessens are on the bubble. Little indicated he was somewhat comfortable with Billingsley as a reliever, even though he's made only one such appearance in his short career. Stults had an outside chance of being one of the 10 if the opponent was the Mets because of his success in his first start in New York last month.

Garciaparra's shaky health could mean that James Loney makes the postseason roster. Garciaparra said he will be ready for the start of the playoffs, but he is nursing injuries to an oblique, quad and knee. Although only 25 players can be active, Little said the club would probably travel with 28 or 29. Once rosters are submitted before a series starts, they cannot be changed during that series.

Regardless of Sunday's outcome, the Dodgers were to fly home after the game. If the series starts in Los Angeles on Tuesday, they would work out Monday. If they open in New York on Wednesday, they would fly Monday and work out Tuesday.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.