Dodgers add key rookie, ditch Craig Kimbrel on 2022 NLDS playoff roster

Adam Weinrib
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 30: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after the run of Diego Castillo #64 of the Pittsburgh Pirates from a Cal Mitchell #31 single, to tie the game 5-5, during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 30, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 30: Craig Kimbrel #46 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after the run of Diego Castillo #64 of the Pittsburgh Pirates from a Cal Mitchell #31 single, to tie the game 5-5, during the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium on May 30, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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The 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers will begin their NLDS tussle with the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, a Wild Card team that they beat 14 times in 19 tries this season.

While LA’s historic roster will enter the series with an inherent advantage, Dave Roberts picked his 26-man unit with the intention of minimizing risk.

He also embraced the possibility of an unexpected spark, courtesy of a player who made a statement against these same Padres late in the season.

The Dodgers’ NLDS roster dropped early on Tuesday morning without one, grand surprise, like the secret injury reveals in Philadelphia, New York and Houston. Instead, Roberts restored fans’ faith by making the bold-esque bullpen move of leaving imploding closer Craig Kimbrel home for Round 1.

Additionally, Roberts played the Kid Card and added rookie Miguel Vargas to the bench, alongside Joey Gallo, Cody Bellinger and Trayce Thompson, all of whom made the postseason outfield picture. Now, let the games begin.

Dodgers leave Craig Kimbrel, add Miguel Vargas to 2022 NLDS Playoff Roster

Vargas’ minor-league season was spectacular; he earned Baseball America’s Triple-A Player of the Year award, hitting .304 with a .915 OPS as a 22-year-old. His big-league tenure was underwhelming (.195 with a single homer in 47 at-bats), but his three-RBI day against the Padres on Sept. 29 opened a few eyes as October neared.

In recent days, the momentum seemed to be on his side to secure a bench spot, and the Dodgers ultimately pulled the trigger, carrying 13 pitchers regardless. None of them were Kimbrel.

By the end of the season, the Hall of Fame closer couldn’t be trusted in any spot, let alone a big spot, no matter what numbers he racked up in August and September. Kimbrel finished the season with 72 Ks in 60 innings, but walked 28 men in those innings and wrapped the year with a 1.32 WHIP.

His past seven games? 6.2 innings, just one earned run, two hits, eight strikeouts … but, yes, six ugly walks. With so many other reliable arms — including the surprising Yency Almonte, whose past seven outings include 7.1 hitless and walk-less innings — the Dodgers had no other choice but to jettison their best-known fireman.

No real surprises here. Just two powerful statements.

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