Heading into their series with the San Francisco Giants, the Los Angeles Dodgers were well aware of the stakes at hand. Monday’s loss in extra innings once again put a microscope on an issue that’s plagued the team throughout the year.
At the beginning of the season, multiple big names were re-singed or acquired and placed in a bullpen that features Kenley Jansen as the undisputed closer. After a strong 2013 season, Brian Wilson was retained, but he’s failed to replicate his success.
With some of the drop off, manager Don Mattingly said relying on Wilson hasn’t been a given this season, according to Bill Shaikin of LA Times:
When we got to the eighth, at the end of the season, it was Brian Wilson. We didn’t have any decision to make. It hasn’t been quite that simple this year.”
Many pitchers have been shuffled in and out of different scenarios to get an idea of where they feel comfortable. Rookie Pedro Baez, who was playing third base just a few years ago, is also in the late-inning mix as he has been given multiple opportunities and produced positive results. Mattingly described the process as stressful and had this to say about his multiple options:
We’re trying to match up guys as best we can in the seventh and eighth innings…to get the ball to Kenley.”
Along with re-signing Wilson, Brandon League and Chris Perez are other right-handers who have been given opportunities to emerge as the setup man with neither taking hold of the role. Although the three arms do have the experience, they are in some ways halting the bullpen from growing.
Paco Rodriguez, Carlos Frias and Baez have had to wait their turn for opportunities to come due to the big names in front of them. When general manager Ned Colletti was asked about the young relievers and the likeliness some may find themselves on the postseason roster, he was relatively noncommittal:
We want to give our younger guys as much time as possible to be ready. We had good arms, but we had inexperience. In the best-case scenario, you break them in in a deliberate but not forced situation. When you look at our bullpen today, it’s got a mixture in it, which is what you hoped it would have by the time we got to the end of the season.”
The Dodgers have five games left before the regular season comes to an end and should be using every moment to gain further clearance on what direction they’ll want to head in come postseason play.