After surprisingly emerging as a strength rather than a weakness, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen struggled to sustain its collective early-season success and became an issue that needed to be addressed.
The Dodgers appeared to achieve as much by acquiring relievers Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson in a complex, three-team, 13-player trade that involved the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. However, both Avilan and Johnson have had their share of struggles with the Dodgers.
Along with the former Braves needing to get acclimated in a new environment with new teammates, they’ve joined a bullpen that operates differently than what they were accustomed to in Atlanta. Avilan detailed some of the changes with J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News:
I was really surprised,” Avilan said. “Jim Johnson and me were talking about that. When we got here, we asked who had the most appearances. We were like … I don’t know, man. I don’t know what to say. Different philosophy.” Avilan said he’s even been told to warm up in the bullpen less often since the trade. In Atlanta, he said, “sometimes we got up two times, then go pitch. The next day, two times, you go to pitch. People just think ‘It’s fine, you threw one inning.’ People don’t realize how hard it is.”
When the Dodgers acquired Avilan and Johnson, J.P. Howell led the club with 40 appearances; he still leads heading into play Friday, now at 47, with Yimi Garcia in second place (44 appearances).
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly recently discussed the importance and emphasis placed on providing ample rest for his relievers, particularly Howell as he appeared to wear down last season. Los Angeles also operates their bullpen as one largely without defined roles — outside of Kenley Jansen as closer — which isn’t necessarily commonplace across baseball.
Since the July 30 trade, Avilan has appeared in six and Johnson in eight of the Dodgers’ 18 games.