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Dodgers send Kevin Pillar to minors

MLB: Spring Training-Los Angeles Dodgers at Kansas City Royals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Pillar made a strong impression in Dodgers camp in spring training, but the veteran outfielder did not make the opening day roster. He was reassigned to minor league camp on Monday along with seven other non-roster invitees, which could mean a trip to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Pillar on Sunday tweeted, “Excited to start my journey back to the show.”

Pillar signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on March 22 that would pay him a reported $2.5 million while in the majors this season. The 33-year-old hit .231/.277/.415 with 15 home runs in 347 plate appearances with the Mets in 2021. The Dodgers are his sixth organization in the last four seasons.

As a major league free agent who signed a minor league deal, per Article XX(B) of the collective bargaining agreement, Pillar is due a $100,000 retention bonus and gains the right to opt out of his contract on June 1 if he isn’t called up to the Dodgers:

If a Club elects to retain a Player under his Minor League Uniform Player Contract pursuant to subparagraph (i) above by paying the $100,000 retention bonus, the Player may require the Club to provide him with his unconditional release on June 1 if he had not been added to the Club’s 25-man roster or placed on the Major League Disabled List at any time prior to June 1. The Player must notify the Club in writing no later than 2 P.M. Eastern Time on May 28 that he is requesting his unconditional release by 2 P.M. Eastern Time on June 1 if the Club does not add him to its 25-man roster or Major League [Injured] List by that time.

Pillar has another opt-out in his deal, per Ardaya.

The Dodgers traded outfielder AJ Pollock to the White Sox for closer Craig Kimbrel on Friday, clearing room for another position player on the roster. Brandon Gomes told reporters Friday that more left field playing time opened up for Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux, both of whom can play other positions. Moving Pollock re-ordered the depth chart a bit, opening up a bench spot.

That bench spot went to Edwin Ríos, and for now only 12 position players remain on the roster, though that could change. The Dodgers plan to carry 16 pitchers for the opening weekend series at Coors Field, but could add a position player after that. By May 2, with roster sizes reducing to 26 players comes a limit of 13 pitchers, which will ensure at least 13 position players on the roster by then.

Pillar played his college baseball at Cal State Dominguez Hills, but it wasn’t just local ties that brought him back to Los Angeles. When he signed his minor league contract, Pillar told reporters at Camelback Ranch the track record of the Dodgers coaching staff was a big reason for his signing with Los Angeles.

“For me, I want to leave no stone unturned. I still believe that I can be a much better baseball player than I am right now. And this is probably the best place for me to try to figure that out,” Pillar said, per Jack Harris of the Los Angeles Times. “I’m betting on myself to be able to play this game at a high level for a couple more years. Even if that means I got to take a step back this year.”

Pillar had two hits in 17 at-bats, including a home run, plus a walk in spring training. He played all three outfield positions in his eight games this spring, including six starts. Pillar played center field in reserve on Sunday night in Anaheim.

That glove work for Pillar was on display on Tuesday when he made a diving catch in right field at Camelback Ranch.

Triple-A Oklahoma City opens its season on Tuesday night, hosting the Albuquerque Isotopes, a Rockies affiliate. OKC has not yet announced their opening day roster.