When the season began the Los Angeles Dodgers set out on the right foot with an impressive offensive and pitching display. The offense exploded in the first month and the surprising bullpen proved they have some talented arms that could help keep the ship afloat until Kenley Jansen and Brandon League returned.
However, roughly one month into the season, the Dodgers began facing adversity and saw their impressive bullpen struggle — both in terms of results and remaining healthy. Pedro Baez, Joel Peralta and Paco Rodriguez eventually all landed on the disabled list.
Peralta returned Monday, and a slew of other relievers are working their way back. Manager Don Mattingly recently had high praise for the 27-year-old Baez and detailed some of what he provides for the Dodgers, via Bill Plunkett of the O.C. Register:
Pedro gives us a power guy that was kind of working his way into a back-end guy – eighth inning, seventh,” said the fifth year manager. “He started being that bridge who could give you one-plus and was working his way into being a guy – we can go there and feel confident.”
Mattingly also touched on the overall benefit of having a full complement of relievers in the bullpen:
It’s almost like your lineup – they give you length. The more guys you have out there, the more options you have,” he protested. “You’re not just going, ‘Hey, I have to leave my starter in for another inning but I don’t really want to’ to get to a different part of my bullpen. So the more we add to our bullpen, the better off we are as far as making better decisions hopefully.”
On the season Baez has a 1.76 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 15 appearances. He’s thrown three scoreless innings over three appearances with the OKC Dodgers dating back to a rehab assignment that began June 19. Currently joining him with the Triple-A club are League and Rodriguez.
League allowed one unearned run in five innings with High-A Rancho before being sent to Oklahoma City where he’s allowed two runs (one earned) and struck out one in 1.2 innings over two appearances.
Rodriguez has split four rehab assignment games between High-A Rancho and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He last pitched Tuesday, throwing one scoreless inning of relief. While Mattingly is looking forward to the return of the aforementioned relievers, it will force the Dodgers to make difficult roster decisions.
One spot could easily be cleared by optioning Ian Thomas back to Triple-A. However, beyond that, there aren’t clearcut moves to be made. Adam Liberatore has options remaining, but has pitched well. Yimi Garcia could be sent down, or Baez and/or Rodriguez may be left in the Minors for the time being.
Additionally, Chris Hatcher, currently on the 15-day DL with an oblique strain, would mean another roster move once he’s ready to be activated. Hatcher is out of Minor-League options.