LOS ANGELES -- The standard-issue reaction would have been to insist that the Dodgers remain dangerous, with or without their brilliant shortstop Corey Seager. But Cubs lefty Jon Lester dispensed with any attempt to downplay the impact of the back injury that will sideline Seager during the National League Championship Series.
Before Game 1 on Saturday, Lester likened the Dodgers’ loss of Seager to the Cubs going without either one of their dynamos, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
“You don’t ever want to see anybody go down,” Lester said. “But that definitely helps us on the pitching side. He’s a huge presence in their lineup.”
Seager’s omission from the NLCS roster because of a back injury put a dent in the Dodgers’ chances to beat the defending world champion Cubs and advance to their first World Series since 1988.
“Yeah, this [stinks], to be honest,” said Seager, who at age 23 is already a two-time Al-Star.
Seager injured himself on a slide in Game 3 of the Dodgers’ sweep of the Diamondbacks in the Division Series. After reviewing the play on video, he found nothing awkward about the slide itself. But he sensed something might be off immediately. When he took off running moments later on Yasiel Puig’s foul ball, he received confirmation.
“That’s kind of when I realized something was wrong,” said Seager, who hit .295 with 22 homers and 77 RBIs this seasosn.
Adrenaline sustained him throughout the rest of Game 3, as did the heat treatments he was receiving between innings. The following day brought an epidural, which the Dodgers figured would give them their best chance of having Seager ready for the NLCS.
Instead, as the Dodgers rested and waited for their opponent in the NLCS, Seager never worked out. He has not run, nor has he participated in baseball activities. By Friday, it became clear that he wouldn’t be ready in time.
“Each day he has progressed, just not rapidly enough that we felt comfortable with the risk,” said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.
Charlie Culberson started Game 1 at shortstop for the Dodgers. The 28-year-old is well regarded defensively, though he spent much of the season with the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez are also options to start for the Dodgers later in the series.
Only an injury would allow the Dodgers to add Seager to the roster during the NLCS. But it’s unclear if he’ll physically be ready. He will not travel to Chicago with the team for Game 3 of the series, a sign that he wouldn’t be available to take a roster spot in case of an opening.
“It’s all contingent upon his health,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So right now he [wouldn’t] be. But in the coming days, the next couple days, if it continues to improve and we can test them and he can pass some tests, that’s a different story. So a couple things right there have to happen for us to even entertain that.”