Heading into the final month of the regular season, the area of biggest concern for Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly figured to be the bullpen. Their struggles to protect leads was again a point of weakness for a team with World Series aspirations.
The bullpen turned a new leaf however, particularly down the stretch, and is one area where manager Don Mattingly feels some sense of relief compared to 2014. “I feel more comfortable this year than last, with the way the guys are throwing the ball right now,” Mattingly said of his 2015 bullpen.
“It’s a little bit more structured as far as kind of knowing where we’re going. The year before I felt pretty good about it, when we had the eighth sewed up and we knew what that was going to be. I think overall depth and quality of arms this year are better than last.”
Other than Kenley Jansen, the bullpen largely did not have any distinct roles. Mattingly relied on matchups, which was a philosophy the organization also instilled throughout the Minors. However, Mattingly recently acknowledged he’s focused on using Luis Avilan and Chris Hatcher in eighth-inning situations.
The bullpen’s troubles last season came one year after Brian Wilson proved to be an effective setup man for Jansen. Wilson was unable to duplicate that success in 2014, and the Dodgers’ never had a reliable eighth-inning reliever.
Prior to Avilan and Hatcher taking hold of that role, the Dodgers utilized Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta, among others, during the eighth inning at various points in the season.