LOS ANGELES -- Charlie Culberson was an unheralded piece in last year's five-player, financially motivated deal with the Dodgers, and his acquisition left some wondering where he was going to fit in on Atlanta's crowded roster.Now, the biggest question is where would the Braves be without him.Shortstop Dansby Swanson, who
LOS ANGELES -- Charlie Culberson was an unheralded piece in last year's five-player, financially motivated deal with the Dodgers, and his acquisition left some wondering where he was going to fit in on Atlanta's crowded roster.
Now, the biggest question is where would the Braves be without him.
Shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was diagnosed with a torn ligament in his left hand last week, has not swung a bat since feeling discomfort after taking swings Saturday. He didn't work out with the team Wednesday at Dodger Stadium in preparation for Game 1 of the National League Division Series, and the club is not optimistic he will be ready before the NL Championship Series -- if it advances.
:: NLDS schedule and results ::
It means Culberson is on track to fill Swanson's spot and resume a familiar role. Last season, the utility man played shortstop for the Dodgers during the NLCS in place of injured shortstop Corey Seager.
"It kind of happened again, and if I have to fill in for Dansby, I will," Culberson said. "It's just another game and I'm trying not to treat it much different than that."
It's been an eventful journey back to Dodger Stadium for Culberson.
Last December, he, right-handed pitcher Brandon McCarthy, left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir, and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, along with $4.5 million in cash were sent to the Braves for Matt Kemp.
Kemp rebounded with a productive season and was named to his third All-Star team. McCarthy, who started 15 games for the Braves, is officially retiring at the end of the season, and Gonzalez was released by the Mets in June. Kazmir was released by the Braves during Spring Training.
It can still be argued the Braves won the trade -- or at least didn't lose it.
"[Culberson's] probably been, arguably, maybe our most valuable player," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I mean [Ronald Acuna Jr.] hurt his knee for a month and Charlie filled in in left field. Ozzie [Albies] had a little hamstring tightness coming out of the break, and [Culberson] performed there. He's had some big pinch-hits. He's the one guy on our team that a lot of guys were going to because he's had the most recent experience in the playoffs."
Sanchez in Game 2
The Braves will start veteran Anibal Sanchez in Game 2 of the NLDS on Friday against Clayton Kershaw.
Sanchez is 2-4 with a 2.79 ERA in 38 2/3 career innings in the postseason. After three consecutive down seasons, he enjoyed a career renaissance this season, going 7-6 with a 2.83 ERA in 25 games (24 starts).
"Anibal has been pitching really good for us, as has [Mike Foltynewicz]," Snitker said. "It's just kind of a natural fit right there and we want him out there, in case we have to bring him back [later in the series]."
Sanchez, 34, struck out 135 batters in 136 2/3 innings in 2018. He went 1-1 and allowed six earned runs in 11 2/3 innings in two starts against the Dodgers this season. He was chosen over right-hander Kevin Gausman, who will likely start Game 3. Atlanta has several candidates to start a potential Game 4.
Ready to go: What the Braves lack in playoff experience, they make up for in youthful enthusiasm and confidence.
They refuse to be intimidated by the Dodgers.
"We got a bunch of young guys that had never experienced September, either, having to win and chasing a division, and it didn't faze them a bit," Snitker said. "We don't know until we get out there and play, but I have all the confidence in the world that these guys are just going to go out there and continue to play the game that they've been playing the last six months."
Albies, Acuna, Johan Camargo and Ender Inciarte are among the regulars who will be making their postseason debuts Thursday. Game 1 starter Foltynewicz will also make his first postseason start. Don't forget about the young members of the bullpen who are also new to the playoffs.
"We're not scared of any teams out there," Foltynewicz said. "We've been competing with them all year, year in, year out. It's really fun this year. There's nothing we can really do but just go one day at a time."
Foltynewicz has a secret to staying calm in big situations and he'll likely use the technique Thursday.
"Ever since my son [Jett] came in February, I've been using him as a big stepping block for me, especially when I'm on the mound," he said. "I got him tattooed on my finger, written on my glove. So, when things do go south out there, I look at him and just breathe."
Jesse Sanchez, who has been writing for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.