The Nationals' decision to carry only seven relievers with a six-man bench for the National League Division Series boiled down their opponent for this first round of the playoffs and the fact that several of their position players are still dealing with nagging ailments.
Manager Dusty Baker said the Dodgers' left-handed-laden lineup necessitated the carrying of three lefties in his NLDS bullpen. And with Daniel Murphy (buttocks), Bryce Harper (thumb), Jayson Werth (back), Ryan Zimmerman (calf) and Jose Lobaton (ankle) all active but not entirely 100 percent healthy, an extra position player on the bench became necessary.
"We needed the extra bodies instead of going with eight guys in the bullpen," Baker said. "We have some guys banged up, some guys that we may have to hit for or run for. ... So that's what went into our decision. And we contemplated many, many different scenarios, and that's why we didn't release our roster to you earlier."
The Nationals released their 25-man roster shortly before today's 10 a.m. deadline. It included some surprises, most notably the inclusion of outfielder Michael A. Taylor instead of Ben Revere or Brian Goodwin.
Expected to play a major role on the club entering the season, Taylor wound up appearing in only 76 games, hitting .231 with a .278 on-base percentage and 77 strikeouts in only 237 plate appearances. He also spent more than a month at Triple-A Syracuse during the season's second half, and received only 10 plate appearances in September, all after the Nationals had already clinched the National League East title.
Taylor also was dealing with a swollen left thumb in recent days, though Baker said they're "confident" it won't affect him.
Taylor joins fellow outfielder Chris Heisey as the only right-handed batters on the Nationals bench, complementing left-handed batters Stephen Drew and Clint Robinson, and switch-hitters Wilmer Difo and Lobaton.
"You know, we just needed some balance," Baker said. "We had a predominantly left-handed-hitting bench, and we just thought that for this series, the things that Michael can do and bring to the table was better for this roster."
In the bullpen, the Nationals decided to carry three lefties (Marc Rzepczynski, Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez) but only one true long man (Reynaldo Lopez) along with three other righties (closer Mark Melancon, Shawn Kelley and Blake Treinen).
"That was tough," Baker said. "I mean, it's tough. Even though they will be traveling with the team, and they will be helping out some younger guys."