Varvaro, Downs notable omissions from roster
ATLANTA -- The fact that the Braves' highest-paid player this season would not see the field in the National League Division Series dominated the conversation of Wednesday's workouts before Game 1. But Dan Uggla was far from the only notable omission from the Braves' 25-man NLDS roster.
Also missing were relievers Anthony Varvaro and Scott Downs, two key contributors to the bullpen's MLB-best 2.46 ERA in the regular season. Varvaro's 62 appearances in 2013 trail only lefty Luis Avilan and closer Craig Kimbrel for the team lead, but he became the victim of a numbers game when manager Fredi Gonzalez determined the Braves needed a true long-relief option in the event of an extra-innings marathon.
"We could carry 11 pitchers, but we didn't really have a long guy, and I think with David Hale, he gives us that long guy with the chance of those extra innings," Gonzalez said. He's a guy that's thrown five to six innings here just a couple weeks ago, so that's the reason for that."
Alex Wood's return to the bullpen supplied Gonzalez with an extra left-handed option at the expense of Downs, who was acquired from the Angels just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Initially regarded as a specialized weapon against left-handers to spell Avilan's workload over the final two months of the season, Downs' appeal as a roster piece waned when left-handers went 9-for-13 off him in September. Gonzalez also trusts right-hander Jordan Walden as a third option against lefties now that Walden is recovered from a nagging groin injury that bothered him for most of September.
Uggla's absence skews the balance of outfielders and infielders among the 14 position players on Atlanta's NLDS roster. Reed Johnson, B.J. Upton, Jose Constanza and Jordan Schafer are available as defensive replacements for Evan Gattis in left field in addition to any pinch-hitting and pinch-running assignments, but only Paul Janish has the ability to play all three infield positions off the bench. According to Gonzalez, the Braves have already drawn up contingency plans in case their infield depth is stretched thin by injuries or extra innings.
"The only thing you don't have covered is if something happens in the 11th or 12th inning and you bring in Janish to replace Chris Johnson, and something happens, somebody rolls an ankle," Gonzalez said. "Then we have to scramble a little bit, and we've made some plans for that also. [Gerald] Laird can play third base, and then you can move some stuff around, and that's all fine and dandy if we haven't used Laird as a pinch-hitter. You try to cover everything, but there's that unknown that you hope you have everything covered."
Of the four reserve outfielders, Gonzalez said Upton and Schafer were his primary options to replace Gattis, who remains a defensive liability in left field despite 47 starting assignments there during the regular season.