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Dodgers beat Giants in Miguel Vargas’ major league debut

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Miguel Vargas of the Los Angeles Dodgers steals third base during the second half of the team's baseball game against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco, Wednesday, August 3, 2022.  (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers steals third base in the second inning against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

His first time on a major league diamond Michael Vargas Came exactly as advertised.

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The plate had patience, with Dodgersthe rookie who missed a pair of two-hit out-of-bounds shots in his first career at-bat on Wednesday.

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There was power in the swing, the right-handed hitter firing the rocket at 106 mph the other way for the RBI double ground rule.

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Then, the highly touted 22-year-old prospect — one of several young talents the Dodgers defended during the quiet trade deadline the day before — also showed off his swaggering confidence.

On the next pitch, of his own free will, he broke through to third base and easily stole it with a head-first slide.

“I just felt incredible,” Vargas said through a translator when asked what motivated him to make such a daring attempt. “I didn’t feel like anyone could stop me.”

The San Francisco Giants didn’t exactly win Wednesday night as Vargas went two-of-four with two RBIs in his major league debut, helping the Dodgers to a 3-0 win in front of 35,400 fans at Oracle Park.

“I was very nervous when I was on the deck circle. [before the first at-bat]Vargas said. “But as soon as I entered the box, I didn’t feel anything.”

For months, Vargas has been knocking on the door of a major league challenge.

After developing his swing and adding pull power, he has become one of the Dodgers’ top minor league players in 2021.

By all accounts, the top 100 prospect entering this season had a pair of brilliant performances as an invitee to major league camp this spring, impressing manager Dave Roberts and his staff.

He then eliminated any long-standing doubts about his readiness by ripping through the A’s with a .291 batting average, 15 home runs, 72 RBIs and a .880 on-base percentage plus a miss, earning him a spot in last month’s Futures Game at Dodger Stadium.

“It just turns into a complete package,” director of player development Will Rhimes said at the time.

However, Vargas had to wait, biding his time behind the other veterans in the team’s organizational depth chart, while his name was constantly mentioned in trading rumors leading up to Tuesday’s deadline.

Vargas said he ignored the rumors and focused on his game, focusing his defense on third base and outfield, a last position he had never played before this season.

Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers breaks the bat in one infield, which was scored by Max Munsey.
Miguel Vargas of the Dodgers breaks his bat in one infield that Max Munsey hit during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants in San Francisco on Wednesday. (Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

“This is a new position and it was challenging at first,” Vargas said. But now I feel quite comfortable there.

This week, he finally got the call to join the major league team, although he was originally told it would be as a member of the Taxi Squad.

However, after a roster shuffle on the last day, which saw Justin Turner on the injured list, the team reversed course and included Vargas on the active roster instead.

He arrived in San Francisco in the middle of Tuesday night’s game, greeting his new teammates with a hug in the dugout.

He then shone in the Dodgers’ victory on Wednesday, opening the scoring with a double in the second inning and then adding another RBI with an infield single in the fourth.

Vargas’ confidence, according to Roberts, is “innate” and the manager says he believes he comes from Vargas’ father, Lázaro, who was a legendary player in Cuba, where he and Vargas defected from in 2015.

“He’s always looking at the field, he understands the game,” Roberts said. “It’s an uncanny ability to slow things down.”

Julio Urias had six-plus scoreless innings in this win, dropping his ERA to 2.57. Forward Evan Phillips avoided a bases jam in the seventh, eliminating the Giants’ biggest threat for the second night in a row.

And Craig Kimbrel narrowly escaped disaster in ninth place, loading the bases with one out before holding on for his 19th save.

After that, however, Vargas was in the spotlight, being greeted with a beer shower upon his return to the club before answering questions in front of his locker with an ear-to-ear smile.

“I have always dreamed of this moment and prepared for it,” Vargas said. “I was ready for this moment.”

It’s unclear how long Vargas can stay in the majors.

Turner and Chris Taylor (who hit two home runs on Wednesday’s rehab assignment) could be back next week. And while Roberts said Vargas could play in left field and in various places in the infield, a lineup deficit could prevent the rookie from regularly at-bats.

However, Roberts did not rule out the possibility that Vargas contributed in the future.

“He certainly has a ton of talent, so putting him in that kind of environment is definitely a good opportunity,” Roberts said. “Yes, it can be short. It may be longer. I think only time will tell.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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