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Dodgers Opening Day roster down to a few final decisions

Notes: A.J. Ramos starts at USC, Zach McKinstry is on the cusp

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MLB: JUL 08 Dodgers Summer Camp Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Dodgers’ Opening Day roster isn’t due until Thursday at 9 a.m. PT, but most of the decisions have already been made. Manager Dave Roberts said before Tuesday’s exhibition finale that he was down to two decisions left to be made.

“We’ve got the extra position player that we’re still talking through, and there’s a bullpen spot we’re talking through,” Roberts said in a conference call.

Veteran reliever AJ Ramos, who signed a minor league deal with the Dodgers on July 7, will start the season at the club’s alternate training site at USC. He hasn’t pitched in a major league game since May 26, 2018, having worked his way back from shoulder surgery. There are still a few boxes left to check.

“A.J. has been impressive, albeit in a small stint. It’s been quite some time since he’s pitched,” Roberts said. “For him to go through the exercises of back-to-back days, potentially be ready for four outs, five outs, things that he hasn’t done in quite some time.”

Roberts said it would be easier for Ramos to simulate those situations at the alternate training site for now.

Ramos was a guest on Dodger Talk with David Vassegh on Tuesday, and said he was happy with the atmosphere in Dodgers camp and putting him in a chance to succeed, even if he won’t be on the active roster just yet.

“With a short season like this, you want to make sure that every step you take is in this sprint has to be a sure step, and a proven step,” Ramos said. “Although I feel that I feel I’m more than ready, I do know that I can get better. I just haven’t had enough time to show and prove that I’m a proven step just yet.”

On the position player side, Zach McKinstry is on the cusp of making his major league debut. But it sounds like he might start at USC as well.

“I think Zach has the skillset and the mindset to be a big league ballplayer right now,” Roberts said. “For the Dodgers, as they say, he’s an injury away. He’s right there.”

McKinstry kept the momentum going this spring and summer, after hitting .300/.366/.516 between Double-A and Triple-A last year while starting games at five different defensive positions. If McKinstry doesn’t make the active roster Thursday, he’ll almost certainly be up at some point this season.

“I had a pitcher reach out to me and say he enjoyed throwing against me, competing against me, and having me behind him when he’s throwing. He thinks I have a pretty good future ahead of me,” McKinstry said last week. “I think I showed some higher-up players that I can compete at the next level.”

McKinstry also homered in Tuesday’s exhibition finale.

The Dodgers already have 13 position players counting both Matt Beaty and Edwin Rios. If McKinstry isn’t on the Opening Day roster, and with Gavin Lux optioned out, the only other position players left on the 40-man roster are catcher Keibert Ruiz, who just reported to camp over the weekend, and outfielders Luke Raley and DJ Peters, neither of whom played in any of the three exhibition games.

Roberts said this week the Dodgers would carry between 15-17 pitchers to start the season. If there’s a position player choice to be made, it appears to be between McKinstry and speedster Terrance Gore, who would need to be added to the 40-man roster.

We’ll see how it plays out by Thursday morning.