Four rookies are on the Dodgers’ National League Division Series roster. A fifth, Tony Gonsolin, narrowly missed the cut. But none of them were with the club from the beginning this season. The only rookie on the Dodgers’ opening day roster was outfielder Alex Verdugo.
And it sounds as though Verdugo, dealing with a back injury for a month, will not be on the roster for the end.
“As far as baseball activities, he’s really not doing a whole lot,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So to see him ready at all in this postseason, very unlikely.”
Verdugo, 23, was placed on the injured list Aug. 6 with a strained oblique. He was scheduled to go on a rehab assignment the first week of September before rejoining the Dodgers. That plan was nixed when he injured his back on a swing in a game with the team’s rookie-level affiliate Sept. 2.
The rookie outfielder was with the team Thursday at Dodger Stadium before Game 1 of the NLDS. He was in workout gear. He said he’s progressed with his conditioning program, but the rehab is slow. He said he hasn’t swung a bat or thrown a baseball since injuring his back.
Verdugo batted .294 with 12 home runs and an .817 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 106 games. He was one of the Dodgers’ best at avoiding strikeouts. If he remains with the team — always an unknown after a long offseason — he figures to play a consistent role in 2020 after producing at the plate while providing plus defense in the three outfield spots.
The Dodgers could’ve used his defense and high contact rate in October. Instead, Verdugo will be a spectator.
“It could change but just the trajectory he’s on,” Roberts said, “it just doesn’t seem likely.”
Matt Kemp drops by
One by one, the Dodgers stopped by the bench to visit the former teammate, who was on their bench in a Jackie Robinson jersey before Game 1.
Matt Kemp embraced every one of them.
“What are you doing?” Joc Pederson asked. “Throwing out the first pitch or something?”
“Absolutely not,” Kemp replied. “That would mean I’m done.”
Matt Kemp, last year’s NL comeback player of the year, in the House. pic.twitter.com/vzCX5ayo6z— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) October 3, 2019
Kemp, 35, intends on playing next season. In his second go-around with the Dodgers last season, he was the NL’s comeback player of the year. Before the start of this season, he was traded to the Cincinnati Reds along with Yasiel Puig and Alex Wood. He fractured a rib colliding with an outfield wall in late April and was released by the Reds while on the injured list.
Kemp was surprised by the move.
“I wasn’t causing trouble,” he said. “They had too many options. I don’t think I was in their plans.”
He signed a minor league deal with the New York Mets, but played in only eight games for their triple-A affiliate in Syracuse as he dealt with the rib injury’s aftereffects. Once he recovered, he started working out at first base to make himself more attractive to teams.
“It ain’t about the money,” Kemp said. “I just love competing. I like to play baseball. You don’t think I want to be out here with my boys?”