LOS ANGELES — Veteran reliever Craig Kimbrel, demoted as the Dodgers’ closer in September, was left off the roster for the best-of-five National League Division Series against the San Diego Padres.
Kimbrel, 34, is baseball’s active career saves leader, with 394. But he did not close games regularly for the Dodgers for most of August and September, having blown five saves in 27 chances this season. He proved more consistent in a lesser role and finished the season with a 3.75 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. But his inconsistency in higher-leverage situations ultimately led to “a tough conversation” for Manager Dave Roberts.
“It’s a person, a player I have so much respect for,” Roberts said. “It hasn’t been a consistent year for (Kimbrel). He accepted the role of getting out of the closer’s role as a professional and was hoping and looking forward to an opportunity here in the DS. We just have other guys that we felt had been more consistent and that match up with these guys better. Not to say that it can’t change. My expectation, our expectation, is that Craig will be ready.”
Blake Treinen and Dustin May recovered from their injuries well enough to be included on the roster. Both faced hitters in intrasquad games over the weekend to test their readiness for the NLDS.
Treinen hasn’t pitched in a competitive game since Sept. 5 – and has appeared in only five games all season – because of shoulder issues. Roberts said the 34-year-old right-hander would be restricted from appearing in back-to-back games or pitching multiple innings in the same game, at the outset of the postseason.
“But again, that could all change given how he feels,” Roberts said of Treinen. “But it’s a really good sign that he feels confident that he can go out there and pitch for us.”
May made only six starts after returning from a lengthy Tommy John surgery rehab. Three went well, three did not, and a lower-back injury ended his regular season on Sept. 21.
After pitching to teammates in intrasquad action Sunday, and throwing an abbreviated bullpen session Monday, May was unlikely to pitch in relief in Games 1 or 2. He could be available in some capacity thereafter, though Roberts would not specify how May is likely to be deployed.
“Dustin is open to whatever we need,” Roberts said.
In the Dodgers’ other suspenseful roster decision, 22-year-old rookie Miguel Vargas displaced veteran utilityman Hanser Alberto.
Vargas was named Baseball America’s Triple-A Player of the Year after batting .304 with a .915 OPS for Oklahoma City. He finished the season with the Dodgers, getting sporadic playing time while going 8 for 47 (.170) with one home run but impressing the Dodgers with his at-bat quality and potential to make an impact in a playoff series.
“Hanser took it like a pro,” Roberts said of the decision. “It’s been amazing what he has done for our ball club, on the field, in the clubhouse. I think sort of the thought behind it is Vargas is a hit tool, the bat to ball (skill), and the foot speed. With our roster, we’ve got a lot of coverage infield-wise, outfield-wise, but to have somebody that can run like him, that the bat-to-ball to potentially drive in a run, we feel really comfortable with that.”
Teams are allowed to adjust their 26-man postseason roster after each round. Players who are replaced during a series cannot be re-inserted during the series or during the following series.
OUT OF LEFT FIELD
Roberts’ most interesting lineup decision concerned left field, where Trayce Thompson got the starter over Chris Taylor, batting eighth.
Taylor was healthy enough to play, Roberts said, but other than about 10 at-bats in intrasquad games over the weekend, he hasn’t played since Sept. 30. He suffered a neck injury the next day.
That, combined with Thompson’s performance – he had a .901 OPS in 74 games as a Dodger, compared to .677 for Taylor – helped make the decision.
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“I just think that, with what we’ve seen from Trayce, there’s been consistent at-bat quality,” Roberts said. “I like the outfield defense. Having Joey on the bench potentially, I like that weapon.”
According to online ticket retailer Vivid Seats, tickets to Game 3 in San Diego are averaging $308 per seat, making it the second-most expensive ticket to any game in any ballpark during the division series round.
The increased demand comes amid a policy in which the Padres restricted ticket sales through their website to residents of only certain cities and counties. Orange County residents not living in San Clemente, Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, San Juan Capistrano and Laguna Beach were excluded. So were Riverside County residents outside of Temecula, Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Menifee, Hemet and Perris. All Los Angeles County residents were included in the ban.
EXPRESS ORAL CONSENT
The San Diego Padres’ Game 2 starter, Yu Darvish, came ready in case an umpire inspects his ears for a foreign substance – which teammate Joe Musgrove had to endure in Game 3 of San Diego’s wild-card series victory over the New York Mets on Sunday night.
“Anybody can come up and touch my ears, touch my nose, touch my wherever,” Darvish said.
Staff writer Bill Plunkett contributed to this story.