The Los Angeles Dodgers enter play Tuesday with five-game lead in the National League West standings despite dealing with injuries to multiple players and having a bullpen that’s largely unsettled.
Compared to last season, the Dodgers’ bullpen has more times than not been used on a case-by-case basis. Manager Don Mattingly explained the reasoning behind that is a reliever has yet to step forward and take hold of a specific inning, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
We are where we’re at because of the way we’ve pitched,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I don’t think we’ve really had anybody say, ‘This is my inning’ where it’s lights out, no doubt about it, every time he goes in that inning, it’s over.
To no surprise, Mattingly acknowledged having a specific reliever for the seventh and eighth innings would make things easier:
We’re just in a mix-and-match situation. Would I prefer it to be a guy in the seventh, a guy in the eighth, a guy in the ninth? Yeah. It’d be a lot easier for me, I’ll tell you that. But that’s just not where we are right now.”
Aside from Kenley Jasnen carrying over as the team’s closer, no other role has truly been defined, which wasn’t the case last season. Brian Wilson made a name for himself as a premier setup man in 2013, his results in 2014 haven’t been quite as dominating.
J.P Howell, Brandon League and Wilson have seemingly rotated in the latter stages of games and their usage has been predicated on matchups. Chris Perez has also been used in the eighth inning, though he’s currently sidelined by bone spurs in his right ankle.
The Dodger bullpen lost Paul Maholm to an ACL tear, but is on the verge of adding Kevin Correia to the mix once Hyun-Jin Ryu returns from the DL, which is expected this weekend.
Correia will likely be used as a long-relief option, which in theory would allow for Jamey Wright to be used in a multitude of situations, which Mattingly implied was going to take place.
For all intents and purposes, the Dodgers have managed with the bullpen not having defined roles, but whether or not the success under such a model will carry over to the postseason may be a different story.
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