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Tim Locastro an intriguing NLDS roster option for Dodgers as pinch runner

Tim Locastro stole 34 bases in 41 attempts in the minors in 2017, and is 1-for-1 in steal tries in the majors.

LOS ANGELES — A week ago, Tim Locastro was painting his parents’ basement in New York, his minor league season long since finished. Now, he might find himself on the roster for the National League Division Series, in a role the Dodgers really haven’t used much before in the postseason.

Locastro, 25, hit .308/.383/.454 with 31 doubles and 10 home runs between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season, but it was his 34 steals in 41 attempts that define his current duties with the major league team.

If Locastro makes the Dodgers’ NLDS roster, it will be mostly as a pinch runner.

“When you’re looking at playing potential close ballgames, and to be able to use him in various situations to help you steal a base or create some tension for an opposing pitcher, I think that holds a lot of value,” said manager Dave Roberts, who knows a little something about the role.

Roberts in 2004 appeared in just three of the 13 postseason games for the Red Sox — they stole him from the Dodgers in exchange for minor league outfielder Henri Stanley at the trade deadline that year — all as a pinch runner. It was Roberts’ steal against the Yankees in the ninth inning, then scoring the tying run of Game 4 of the ALCS that will ensure he will never pay for a meal in Boston again.

Locastro was called up last Friday, and played in the final three regular season games in Denver, appearing twice as a pinch runner, stealing one base in his only attempt. Andy McCullough of the LA Times explained how Locastro found out the new of his call up:

On Thursday afternoon, Locastro received a call from Gabe Kapler, the Dodgers’ director of player development. Kapler quizzed him on his offseason routine and his nutrition. A few hours later, Kapler called back and asked if Locastro had plans for this weekend. Locastro went to break the news to his parents.

“I’ve got good news and bad news,” Locastro told them. “The bad news is the basement won’t be finished for a little while. The good news is I’m going to the big leagues.”

The Dodgers will hold workouts at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the NLDS, which starts Friday night. During those workouts, Locastro will be tested in game-like conditions on the bases.

“We’re going to put him in situations to mimic those situations,” Roberts said. “I trust him as a base runner and base stealer.”

Among the Dodgers’ potential NLDS opponents, the Diamondbacks this season allowed 69 stolen bases, tied for eighth fewest in baseball as a team. The Rockies have allowed 67 steams sixth fewest.

The first name that comes to mind when thinking of a pure pinch runner is Herb Washington, the former track star who appeared in 105 games for the Oakland Athletics in 1974-75 and never batted once. He never even played in the field.

He stole 31 bases in 48 attempts, and scored 29 times. In the 1974 World Series, Washington appeared in three games against the Dodgers as a pinch runner but didn’t steal a base. He was famously picked off first base by closer Mike Marshall in the ninth inning of Game 2.

The Dodgers haven’t utilized a pure pinch runner for most in their postseason history. Just seven times has a Dodgers player appeared in two postseason games as a pinch runner in a single year.

The closest was Dee Gordon, who in 2013 appeared in just two of the club’s 10 games in October, both as a pinch runner. He was the only one of the seven players to even attempt a steal after pinch running, and was caught stealing.

Dodgers to appear twice as a pinch runner in a single postseason

Player Year PR games Total games Total PA SB/CS Runs as PR
Player Year PR games Total games Total PA SB/CS Runs as PR
Bernie Nels 1920 2 4 6 0/0 0
Eddie Miskis 1947 2 5 4 0/0 1
Derrel Thomas 1981 2 11 11 0/0 1
Jose Gonzalez 1988 2 9 2 0/0 0
Juan Pierre 2009 2 7 3 0/0 2
Orlando Hudson 2009 2 8 4 0/0 0
Dee Gordon 2013 2 2 0 0/1 0
Source: Baseball-Reference

Such a spot is usually a luxury to have, with roster spots such a precious commodity. But a few things work in Locastro’s favor in potentially being active for the NLDS. One is that the Dodgers are still deciding on the final few roster spots, and with two off days in a shortened series might not need to carry as many relievers, which would add room for an extra position player, like Locastro.

“Probably a guy who can pinch run makes more sense in a shorter series,” Roberts said. “You can argue that you don’t need eight guys in the pen with the off days and the short series.”

In addition, among the position players in reserve, not many have stood out. Kyle Farmer and Joc Pederson might be Locastro’s stiffest competition, and neither have had performances that make them roster locks, or anything near it.

“Ultimately it comes down to matchups, and what we feel the role of a particular bullpen guy or guy off the bench, what value and upside he provides to help us to win a game or multiple games, to give us the best chance,” Roberts said.