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Dodgers demote Alex Verdugo to make room for Yasiel Puig's return

Dodgers demote Alex Verdugo to make room for Yasiel Puig's return
Alex Verdugo celebrates after hitting a third inning solo home run against the Atlanta Braves. (Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)

When Alex Verdugo met the Dodgers in Philadelphia on Tuesday, he revealed a small goal for his latest stint on the big league roster. He had left his car, a Chevy Impala, at his home in Tucson. He hoped to stay with the Dodgers long enough to have reason to bring the car to Los Angeles.

His hope was dashed Friday evening, after Verdugo homered against the Atlanta Braves. Manager Dave Roberts informed Verdugo he would be optioned to the minors to make room for Yasiel Puig as Puig returned from the disabled list. The Dodgers executed the move before Saturday’s game. Verdugo was already on his way to join the triple-A Oklahoma City team.

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“It was tough,” Roberts said. “But it was easy in the sense that we have a lot of good players. And he understood it.”

Roberts praised Verdugo, 22, for accepting the news better than he did during similar circumstances in May. The organization views Verdugo, along with catcher Keibert Ruiz, as one of its most prized prospects. They have been wary of including him in trade proposals, but they have also been reticent about using him for extended stretches in the major leagues.

Verdugo lost his spot because he had minor league options. The Dodgers did not consider optioning Cody Bellinger instead, Roberts explained before the game. Bellinger offers too much versatility as a first baseman and an outfielder, even with depressed offensive production.

Verdugo was five for 16 with a home run, a double and three walks on this trip. He nearly busted up his leg sliding into an outfield wall Thursday night, but was able to start again Friday.

“Do I believe that any time he’s on our roster, he can help us win? Yeah,” Roberts said. “We expect him at some point. Don’t know when.”

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