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09/29/12 9:15 PM ET

Cruz's strong finish could lead to starting in 2013

LOS ANGELES -- Could Luis Cruz, a journeyman who has become one of the Dodgers' most consistent hitters the past three months, factor into the next year's plans?

Manager Don Mattingly doesn't see any reason why he can't.

"To me, Luis has come in and taken the job," Mattingly said. "That is my opinion. He's come in and said, 'Why not?' There is nothing he has done that says 'Don't play me.' He really has been great.

"Luis has definitely established himself, at the least -- the very, very least -- to be talked about as as far as an every day guy."

Cruz, 28, is batting .306 since being called up in July. Originally used at shortstop, Cruz shifted to third base and has committed only one error in 108 chances entering Saturday's game against the Rockies.

At the plate, Cruz's .326 batting average in 24 September games ranks 12th in the National League for the month, entering Saturday.

Cruz entered the season with only 56 big league games on his resume, after bouncing around several organizations.

The Dodgers control Cruz's contract through 2014, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see his name penciled into the Opening Day lineup in 2013.

"When we first started Cruzer, I really kind of thought, honestly, that he was going to get exposed at some point and hit a cold spell," said Mattingly, who compared Cruz to Casey Blake. "He's shown nothing but being able to handle everything we've given him."

Kershaw to make final Cy case on Wednesday

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw's season -- and chase for a second-straight National League Cy Young Award -- seemed all but over a couple weeks ago, thanks to pain in his right hip.

But after throwing eight pain-free, shutout innings with 10 strikeouts on Friday night, Kershaw will get one more start this season to make his case for the award. For the moment, the lefty is listed as the starter for Wednesday's regular season finale against San Francisco, and he has every intention of taking the mound.

"That is my plan," Kershaw said. "Hopefully it matters. I definitely plan on pitching, regardless."

Kershaw is second in the NL in innings pitched (219 2/3) and strikeouts (221), trailing R.A. Dickey in both categories. The lefty has held opposing batters to a .213 average, which is second in the NL to Gio Gonzalez's .206 mark.

Kershaw's total of 13 wins isn't as flashy as some of the other top pitchers in the league, like Gonzalez (21), Dickey (20) or Johnny Cueto (19), but that is because he has been the recipient of poor run support all season.

Kershaw is 5-3 with a 1.79 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 70 1/3 innings over his last 10 starts. He went 21-5 with a 2.28 ERA and 248 strikeouts last season to win the Cy Young Award.

"He embraces being the guy at the front of the rotation," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who remembers Kershaw needing 100 pitches to get through four innings as a rookie. "It's totally evident in his body language."

"His fastball command is like night and day from when he showed up. He's developed into one of the best in the industry. A big-game pitcher. If there's a game you have to win, you feel very good about your chances"

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he had hesitations about keeping Kershaw in the game late Friday night because of the right hip impingement, but he ultimately let him stay in the game after cruising through the first seven innings.

"In the eighth, I was kind of a little nervous about sending him back out around 100 pitches," said Mattingly, adding there has never been any concern that there was a "long-range, long-term, unfixable-type of problem."

"He just rolled. He was throwing the ball so good. It tells you there was nothing going on. If there is something going on, you don't keep throwing the ball like that. The way he has pitched has really told the story."

Worth noting

• Mark Ellis sat out for the third time in the past four games on Saturday and was replaced by Nick Punto at second base and atop the lineup. Ellis had been ill earlier in the week and manager Don Mattingly said he wanted to give the veteran a day off either Saturday or Sunday.

Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.