Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Here’s why Dodgers’ Miguel Vargas is still at Triple-A

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LOS ANGELES ― A bobblehead giveaway featuring two players is unusual. That’s even more true when one of the featured players has been in the minor leagues for the better part of two months.

Such was the case Thursday at Dodger Stadium when James Outman and Miguel Vargas were the featured players of a rookie-themed promotional giveaway.

Outman has been a mainstay in the Dodgers’ outfield and figures to get down-ballot consideration for the National League Rookie of the Year award. Meanwhile, Vargas was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City on July 9 and has been buried on the Dodgers’ depth chart ever since.

Prior to the Aug. 1 trade deadline, the Dodgers acquired veterans Amed Rosario and Kiké Hernandez, who can play second base. On Friday, the Dodgers purchased the contract of Kolten Wong – a two-time Gold Glove winner at second base – when rosters expanded from 26 to 28.

The expectations were high for Vargas after he made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster as a second baseman. Manager Dave Roberts said Vargas was considered for a promotion this week, yet he remains in Oklahoma City for a simple reason.

“Michael (Busch) outplayed him,” Roberts said.

Busch was hitting .323 with a .432 on-base percentage and 24 home runs when he was promoted from Triple-A on Aug. 22 to replace injured designated hitter J.D. Martinez. Since then, he has three hits (including two homers) in 24 at-bats. Roberts attributed some of Busch’s struggles to the fact that he is unaccustomed to not playing every day.

When Martinez returns to the Dodgers, as early as next weekend in Washington, D.C., Busch’s latest major-league stint could be cut short.

Vargas has a .303 batting average and .411 OBP in 44 Triple-A games this year, but he did most of his damage early. Before a breakout game Sunday against Round Rock (3 for 4, homer, two RBIs), Vargas had been mired in a 15-game stretch in which he batted .100 with 12 strikeouts in 40 at-bats.

“We absolutely believe in what Miguel Vargas is going to do for us going forward, but I do believe that at some point meritocracy, performance should matter,” Roberts said. “Michael went down there and played well.”

BUEHLER RETURNS

Walker Buehler made his first minor-league rehabilitation start for Triple-A Oklahoma City and retired all six batters he faced against the Round Rock Express.

Buehler threw 24 pitches, 15 for strikes. His fastball touched 93-96 mph and he struck out two batters, both looking, one with his four-seam fastball and another with his sinker.

It was the first competitive outing for Buehler since June 10, 2022, after which he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Buehler is expected to make at least two more rehab starts at Triple-A before rejoining the major-league roster.

AWARDS

Mookie Betts was chosen National League Player of the Month and Outman was chosen NL Rookie of the Month for August.

Betts hit .455 (51-for-112) with 11 home runs, 30 RBI, 10 doubles, 12 walks, 35 runs scored, three stolen bases, a .516 on-base percentage and an .839 slugging percentage in 28 games during August, reaching safely in 27 of the 28 contests.

Outman led NL rookies in on-base percentage (.408) and walks, tied for the lead in home runs (5) and OPS (.890), ranked second in batting average (.277) and slugging (.482), and tied for second in RBIs (15). He also claimed the NL Rookie of the Month award in April.

ALSO

Clayton Kershaw, Lance Lynn and Julio Urias will start against the Miami Marlins in that order. The Marlins will counter with left-hander Jesus Luzardo on Tuesday and left-hander Braxton Garrett on Thursday; they have not announced a starter for Wednesday’s game.

UP NEXT

The Dodgers have an off-day Monday

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