Seager dropped from Dodgers’ NLCS roster with back injury
LOS ANGELES (AP) — All-Star shortstop Corey Seager was left off the Dodgers’ roster for the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs due to a back injury, and replacement Charlie Culberson made several big plays in Los Angeles’ 5-2 win Saturday night.
The team announced Seager’s surprise omission several hours before Game 1 at Dodger Stadium. Culberson had only 15 plate appearances in the big leagues this season, but he stepped up with a double, a key sacrifice fly and a hustling run to the plate in the seventh inning to score Los Angeles’ final run in the series opener.
“Obviously, losing Corey is no fun,” ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw said. “I think he’s one of the best hitters on our team, one of the best players on our team. Everybody is going to have to step up, and you saw that with Culby tonight. Culby has had some good moments for us in the past. He plays amazing defense and seems to come up with some good hits for us, too.”
Seager complained of back pain during the Dodgers’ NL Division Series clincher in Arizona on Monday after sliding into second base in the first inning. The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year didn’t run or participate in team workouts this week, and he had an epidural shot Tuesday.
“It improved, but (not) enough to warrant him being out there,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s still sore. (Seager) hasn’t hit, hasn’t moved around, and to (decide whether) he can not only take the field but be effective out there, I think that we had to weigh everything.”
Instead, Seager likely can’t play again this season unless the Dodgers reach their first World Series since 1988. Seager theoretically could be added back to the NLCS roster if a teammate was injured, but Roberts downplayed that possibility before Game 1.
So did Seager, who doesn’t even plan to travel with the Dodgers to Chicago for Game 3 on Tuesday. The lower back pain clearly frustrates Seager, who can’t understand how it happened on an innocuous play.
“It was a very normal slide,” Seager said. “I watched it over and over again to see if I landed awkward, hit awkward. I mean, it was extremely normal. Felt it on the slide right away.”
Los Angeles also dropped reliever Pedro Baez from its roster. Culberson and outfielder Joc Pederson were added.
Chicago made only one change from the NLDS, adding right-handed reliever Hector Rondon and removing left-handed reliever Justin Wilson.
Rondon gave up a go-ahead homer to Chris Taylor in the sixth inning and took the loss.
Seager led the Dodgers with 159 hits this season, batting .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs while playing in 145 games. He went 3 for 11 with four walks and two RBIs in the Division Series, batting second in the lineup in all three games.
Instead of using Kike Hernandez or the versatile Taylor at shortstop, Roberts went with Culberson, who batted eighth against Chicago left-hander Jose Quintana.
Culberson drove in the tying run in the fifth inning with a sacrifice fly. He doubled in the seventh and slid home with the Dodgers’ fifth run — although he was initially called out at the plate before a video review determined that Cubs catcher Willson Contreras had illegally blocked the plate.
“At first I thought I was going to have a lane, just kind of a slide to the side to touch the plate,” Culberson said. “But at the last second, he obviously stepped in front of me. And after looking at the replay, I think it was pretty obvious that he was blocking the plate.”
Culberson batted .250 at Triple-A Oklahoma City this year and appeared in only 15 games for Los Angeles. He famously homered to clinch the Dodgers’ NL West title in announcer Vin Scully’s final home game last season.
Rondon was the Cubs’ closer in 2014 and 2015, but moved to a setup role last season after Aroldis Chapman’s arrival. He appeared in 61 regular-season games this year, going 4-1 with a 4.24 ERA in an up-and-down campaign.
Chicago acquired Wilson in a trade with Detroit on July 31, adding a veteran lefty who had 13 saves for the Tigers this season. The Southern California native wasn’t great in his two months with the Cubs, posting a 5.09 ERA with 19 walks in 23 appearances.
Manager Joe Maddon chose Wilson for the NLDS over Rondon, only to switch it up against the Dodgers. Chicago has two left-handed relievers on its roster with the removal of Wilson, who pitched once in the Division Series against Washington, getting two outs in Game 4.
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