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Braves set NLDS roster with two big absences

ATLANTA -- When the Braves acquired Scott Downs from the Angels on July 29, he was excited about the possibility of pitching in the playoffs for the first time.

But while Downs' Atlanta teammates are playing the Dodgers in the National League Division Series that begins Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on TBS, the 37-year-old veteran reliever will be in Florida keeping his arm ready for the possibility he will be needed at some point during the postseason.

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Dan Uggla and Downs were the notable players excluded from the NLDS roster the Braves officially released Wednesday afternoon. While Uggla's fate was essentially learned Tuesday, the news regarding Downs was more surprising.

"Basically, it sounds like it came down to a two-week audition," a frustrated Downs said. "The last two weeks of September, I gave up a couple hits to lefties late. So they felt going with two lefties in the 'pen was the right way to go."

If it was indeed an audition, Downs provided little drama in his competition with rookie Alex Wood to determine who would join Luis Avilan as the other left-handed reliever the Braves would use during this best-of-five series against the Dodgers.

Often viewed as a left-handed specialist, Downs allowed nine hits in the 13 at-bats left-handed hitters recorded against him in September. During this same span, right-handed hitters went 4-for-8 against him. Consequently, Downs allowed five earned runs and recorded nine outs in the 10 appearances he made after August.

After showing some fatigue -- not completing five innings in any of three September starts -- Wood moved back to the bullpen role he had for most of the six weeks leading up to the All-Star break. Although Wood allowed hits to two of the three left-handed batters he faced during the regular season's final week, he did not allow a run in the 2 2/3 innings he completed.

Downs will spend the next week pitching in instructional league games at the Braves' Spring Training complex. Joining him will be Paul Maholm and Anthony Varvaro, who were also left off the NLDS roster. Over the past couple of weeks, it had become apparent the Braves would most likely choose Freddy Garcia instead of Maholm to start Game 4 of the NLDS. Manager Fredi Gonzalez confirmed this Wednesday when he revealed his rotation would be, in order, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Garcia.

A surprising addition to the roster was David Hale, who allowed one run in the 11 innings he completed while making his first two career appearances in starts made over the past two weeks. The Braves view the rookie right-hander as a better long-relief option than Varvaro, who compiled a 2.82 ERA in 62 appearances this year.

"We felt [Hale] was a guy who can give us some innings late in the game if you get into one of those crazy 12- or 13-inning games," Gonzalez said. "He's the one who is stretched out enough."

NLDS roster

Pitchers (11): Minor, Medlen, Teheran, Garcia, Wood, Avilan, Hale, Luis Ayala, David Carpenter, Jordan Walden and Craig Kimbrel.

Catchers (3): Evan Gattis, Gerald Laird and Brian McCann

Outfielders (6): Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton, Justin Upton, Jose Constanza, Reed Johnson and Jordan Schafer

Infielders (5): Freddie Freeman, Andrelton Simmons, Chris Johnson, Elliot Johnson and Paul Janish

Eric Single is an associate reporter for Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, Dan Uggla