One of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ strengths last season was their bullpen, which included the emergence of rookie Chris Withrow. That strength figured to carry over into 2014 as Withrow, along with other relievers, got valuable experience with the postseason run and added depth in the off-season. However, a byproduct of carrying a plethora of relievers on the roster also created a logjam of sorts, which hasn’t quite had its repercussions, but soon could.
In 26 appearances last season, Withrow had three wins to no losses, threw 34.2 innings, had 43 strikeouts, 2.60 ERA, 140 ERA+ and 0.95 WHIP. Those stats, combined with being a power arm, would lead to the belief a spot on the 2014 roster for Withrow is essentially guaranteed. Withrow has done nothing to dispel that notion as he’s picked up where he left off.
In five appearances thus far, the right-hander has given up just one hit, struck out nine and has a 0.33 WHIP. Withrow told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times he’s simply trying to seize an opportunity:
I’ve always heard once you get up, it makes you realize the little stuff you take for granted and how much better it is than pitching in the minor leagues, Withrow said. You do everything you can, on and off the field, to make that a possibility.
As much as Withrow would like to remain with the club at the big league level, he also acknowledged to Dilbeck worrying about the complexion of the roster isn’t something he can focus on:
You can’t worry about the numbers, Withrow said. You can’t worry about anything but getting the job done when you get your name called. I guess you can try and make the decision harder, but the only thing you can control is how you perform on the field.
Despite being nearly unhittable, Withrow’s days may be numbered as Brian Wilson, the Dodgers’ $10 million setup man, is eligible to come off the disabled list on April 15. The Dodgers will need to make a move in order to place Wilson back on the active roster and their options are limited, particularly if everyone is healthy and performing well. The only Dodger reliever that has truly struggled is Kenley Jansen, but Withrow isn’t going to unseat him as closer, at least for now.
Oft-criticized Brandon League has managed to solve his woes from last season and any notion that the Dodgers would be bold enough to designate him for assignment now appear slim. If no player is placed on the DL, either Paco Rodriguez or Withrow will more than likely be optioned to the minors. For now Dodgers manager Don Mattingly can take comfort in knowing he’s got a bullpen chock-full of capable relievers. However in just three days, that same luxury may make for a difficult decision.
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