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Hard work pays off for Dodgers' George Sherrill

October 14, 2009 |  9:17 am

George The stops in Evansville, Ind., Sioux Falls, S.D., and Winnipeg, Canada, have made the ones in St. Louis and Philadelphia more special for George Sherrill.

The reliever who spent 4 1/2 years in independent leagues after going undrafted out of Austin Peay University is now pitching on baseball’s biggest stage with the Dodgers in the playoffs.

“When you pitch as long as he did in independent ball and you have such a great passion for the game, when you get the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues and you get to pitch in meaningful games, it’s something obviously he’s thought about for a long time and it’s something he’s worked very hard to get to,” General Manager Ned Colletti said.

Sherrill went 1-0 with a minuscule 0.65 earned-run average in 30 regular-season games with the Dodgers after being acquired from Baltimore in late July. The left-hander then allowed one run in 2 1/3 innings over three appearances during the Dodgers’ three-game sweep of St. Louis in the National League Division Series and is expected to be a key factor against Philadelphia's big left-handed bats in the NL Championship Series, which starts Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

"Hard to have it turn out better," Colletti said. "He’s been everything we thought he would be both in his results and in his makeup and character. He’s been a huge addition for us.”

The Dodgers’ much-maligned rotation has held up pretty well through 165 games, thank you very much.

The lack of quality depth was supposed to be a hindrance during the regular season, but the Dodgers held on to win the National League West.

The absence of an ace was supposed to be a huge disadvantage against the St. Louis Cardinals, who had a pair in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, in the NL division series.

And how did that turn out again?

Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Vicente Padilla helped the Dodgers complete a three-game sweep. Now the Dodgers could be getting back Hiroki Kuroda for the NL Championship Series against Philadelphia after he was sidelined for the division series with a bulging disk in his neck, potentially moving Chad Billingsley to the bullpen.

Manager Joe Torre said the ability of starters to step up at different points of the year was key to the Dodgers’ success.

“Even though we really don't have a quote-unquote No. 1, we've had different people come up big,” Torre said. “Wolfie for a good period of the time, Kershaw from June or July on was pretty special as far as his consistency. Bills early on and then he struggled and had a couple of setbacks physically. Kuroda was on the DL a couple of different times and came back from the beaning pretty well.

“I think we have a nice mix of guys who aren't afraid to go out there. That's important this time of year.”

Colletti marveled at the Dodgers’ ability to thrive without Cy Young Award candidates.

“You’d certainly rather have it,” he said, “but you’re not going to cancel the season if you don’t. Would you like to have two guys who have won 18, 20 games and whenever you see their name it’s [as a] ‘Cy Young candidate’? Sure you would. But we continue to play on with or without.”

For more on the Dodgers, check out Jon Weisman's Dodger Thoughts blog.

-- Ben Bolch

Photo: George Sherrill. Credit: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images