It’s nothing personal for the Los Angeles Dodgers, at this point. It’s strictly title-defense business.
And, considering this team could be stuck in a one-game Wild Card scenario, the margin for error is thin as an eyelash. No excuses. No mistakes. No more Mr. Nice Guy in divvying up roster spots.
Considering LA’s opening playoff round might be only nine innings long (hence the reason Justin Turner and Co. didn’t really celebrate much when the team clinched), Dave Roberts and the front office have the luxury of leaving a few pitchers off their 26-man roster. For example, if Walker Buehler relieves Max Scherzer, something has gone horribly wrong.
The ability to ditch a starter or two gives the Dodgers the ability to fold an extra reliever onto the roster, but for the purposes of this exercise, we’re not going to take the cop out and just say, “Clayton Kershaw probably won’t be on the Wild Card Game roster. OK, goodbye!” As far as we can tell, these names should be wary about their postseason futures this October, because their slots are far from secure as Los Angeles (hopefully) advances.
Currently, the Dodgers are sitting at a maximized version of their roster, bringing 28 active players to any given game down the stretch. When Oct. 6 arrives, that’ll be forcibly trimmed down to 26.
As we see it, the bench looks fairly secure … well, except for one name. We’ll get into that in a second. Surely, entering this all-important contest, LA will be thinking pitching, first and foremost. What if disaster strikes? Remember Luis Severino in the 2017 Wild Card Game? In the blink of an eye, the Yankees had to pivot and cover 8.2 innings with bullpen arms. The more, the merrier — especially people who can give you length.
With everything hanging in the balance, it’s certainly difficult to figure out who could be on the outside looking in, especially as LA has established a rhythm with this exact roster down the stretch. As far as we can tell, these three players should be on edge, though.
These 3 Dodgers haven’t secured a playoff roster spot yet.
3. Evan Phillips
Yes, the Dodgers need bullpen arms. We’ve established this. And maybe, just maybe, they opt to keep Evan Phillips over, say, Buehler, who’s absolutely, positively not going to make an appearance on Oct. 6.
But, then again, has the rarely-used Phillips really done anything much to justify his inclusion for a do-or-die game?
The righty was activated off the IL on Aug. 30 when Mitch White went down — remember him? — and has only pitched sparingly since being imported as a desperation waiver claim, back in the day when arms like Edwin Uceta were ping-ponging back and forth to the surface.
Don’t believe us? Check the usage chart. Since making his Dodgers debut on Aug. 19 against the New York Mets with 2.1 three-hit innings of one-run relief, he’s only appeared four times in September, and allowed a pair of earned runs in an inning of relief in LA’s catastrophic loss to the D-Backs earlier this week.
Phillips isn’t finishing strong, nor is he stating his case very often at all. Odds are, he’s the first name jettisoned from the staff when the Dodgers have to make some tough postseason decisions — and, speaking of, has there been any talk of bringing White back from Triple-A? That might be another roster spot claimed by an unexpected arm, now that you mention it. There simply won’t be room for Phillips.