Dodgers roster moves: Jason Heyward returns to lineup, Max Muncy joins injured list

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The Dodgers knew for a while they had one big roster decision to make.

On Tuesday, an unexpected injury forced them to make two.

The Dodgers activated outfielder Jason Heyward and called up former top infield prospect Miguel Vargas. They optioned outfielder James Outman to the minor leagues and placed third baseman Max Muncy on the injured list with an oblique strain.

Heyward’s activation wasn’t a surprise, after manager Dave Roberts announced Thursday the veteran had completed his rehab assignment following a six-week back injury.

Outman’s demotion to triple A Oklahoma City wasn’t a huge shock either, with the second-year center fielder batting .147.

It’d become apparent in recent weeks that, upon Heyward’s return, either Outman or slumping veteran Chris Taylor (who is batting .083) would likely be moved off the roster. A key difference between the two was that Outman had minor-league options, while Taylor still has almost $30 million left owed on a contract that doesn’t expire until the end of next year.

The unforeseen move Friday was Vargas’ promotion, with the Dodgers recalling last year’s rookie flameout following a strong start to his triple A season.

Muncy’s oblique strain was another twist, coming a day after the 33-year-old missed Thursday’s game.

In Muncy’s absence, some combination of Kiké Hernández, Miguel Rojas and even Taylor (who has started just once in the last two weeks) could get action at third base. Vargas also has experience at third, but has spent little time there the past two seasons.

The share of playing time in the outfield, meanwhile, could be subject to bigger immediate changes.

Out since late March with a back injury, Heyward will likely reprise his part-time role in right field, starting there most days the Dodgers face right-handed pitching.

Vargas has also converted to the outfield this year, making 35 starts in left with Oklahoma City.

The Dodgers will be hoping to benefit from Vargas’ bat, giving the 24-year-old a chance to bounce back from last year’s rookie struggles.

As the team’s opening day second baseman in 2023, Vargas batted just .195 in 81 games before being sent down at the All-Star break. He did collect seven home runs, 15 doubles, four triples and 32 RBIs, but also had 61 strikeouts and poor defensive metrics at second base.

While Vargas’ exact role this time wasn’t immediately clear, he (and Taylor, a fellow right-handed batter) could effectively platoon with the left-handed Heyward, playing left field on the day Heyward sits.

The Dodgers will need the extra offense in Muncy’s absence. Prior to his injury, Muncy had a .223 batting average, but also nine home runs, 28 RBIs and a .798 OPS.

In other roster news Friday, the Dodgers freshened up their bullpen by calling up Ricky Vanasco and optioning Nick Ramirez. Earlier in the day, the team also announced it had acquired left-handed pitcher Anthony Banda from the Cleveland Guardians in exchange for cash considerations.

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