The Los Angeles Dodgers featured five left-handed pitchers on their National League Division Series roster, including midseason acquisitions Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson to go along with starting pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Alex Wood.
One surprising name that was excluded is Luis Avilan, but it was for good reason. The southpaw was saddled with left shoulder inflammation in recent weeks, which essentially ended his regular season earlier than expected.
Avilan last appeared in a game on Sept. 21 against the Philadelphia Phillies, when he tossed a scoreless inning with one strikeout and one walk. The shoulder trouble rendered Avilan unavailable for the NLDS but in line for a possible return in the NL Championship Series.
That projection was prior to the Dodgers completing a sweep of the Diamondbacks in the NLDS. With Los Angeles moving on, Avilan figures to be in the discussion for the NLCS roster.
“He is [on track for a potential NL Championship Series return],” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts recently said. “He threw 18 to 20 pitches [Sunday] and he’ll throw again on Wednesday.
“So he’s on track. He feels good. The ball was coming out. So when we get to that point, he definitely will be in the mix.”
Avilan was quite effective against left-handed batters during the regular season, holding the group to a .195/.290/.280 slash line in 93 plate appearances.
The 28-year-old did struggle against right-handed hitters (.292/.376/.449 slash line in 101 plate appearances), but given the bullpen structure, it would be a surprise if he faces the opposite split during the next round of postseason play.
Everything considered, Avilan posted an excellent 2.93 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 46 innings with 52 strikeouts to 22 walks. Since joining the Dodgers in a 2015 trade with the Atlanta Braves, he owns a 3.43 ERA, 2.89 FIP and 1.28 WHIP in 81.1 innings with 10.8 strikeouts per nine.
It isn’t clear which pitcher would be replaced to make room for Avilan on the NLCS roster, but his presence would clearly bolster the bullpen and give the team another weapon against left-handed hitting.
That would be particularly useful as the Dodgers face the prospects of seeing the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber, or Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy in the NLCS.