With the Nationals NL Division Series roster revealed Friday morning, manager Dusty Baker explained some of his more surprising choices.
Perhaps the biggest eyebrow-raising move was the decision to tap outfielder Michael Taylor over veteran Ben Revere, who struggled this season but has playoff experience.
“We needed some balance,” Baker said before Friday’s NLDS opener. “We had a predominantly left-handed hitting bench and we just that for this series, that the things that Michael can do and bring to the table was better for this roster.”
Taylor has had a bit of an odyssey in 2016. Unexpectedly playing everyday following Revere’s opening day oblique injury, the 25-year-old struggled to convince the Nats that he should be a permanent part of the lineup. He was eventually sent down to Triple-A Syracuse and returned to the majors in late August. He only had 28 at-bats after the All-Star break.
Add in an apparent thumb injury he suffered earlier in the week, and Taylor didn’t look like someone who would be playing in October.
“We’re confident,” Baker said. “We wouldn’t have put him on there if we thought he couldn’t perform. So we watched him the last couple days, a trainer has been working with him big time. So, yeah, we’re confident.”
The other area where the Nats with with youth over experience was in the bullpen. Rookie Reynaldo Lopez, who impressed Baker as a long reliever in September, was put on the roster over Yusmeiro Petit. Right-handed reliever Matt Belisle was also left off the team in favor of an extra southpaw to combat the Dodgers’ bevy of left-handed bats in their lineup.
“That was tough,” Baker said. “It’s tough, even though they will be traveling with the team, and they will be helping some of the younger guys. Petit had not pitched well as of late, and Belisle had not had much activities of late.”
In all, the Nats will carry 14 position players and 11 pitchers on their 25-man playoff roster. Baker said that he wanted to have more position players available because of the injuries to some of his key regulars.
"We needed the extra bodies instead of going with eight guys in the bullpen," he said. "We have some guys banged up, some guys that we may have to hit for or run for."
Of those on the roster, five of them are rookies: Relievers Sammy Solis and Reynaldo Lopez, center fielder Trea Turner, infielder Wilmer Difo and catcher Pedro Severino.