Coming into the 2014 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are stocked full with relief pitchers. The signings of Chris Perez and Jamey Wright coupled together with the re-signing of Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell have the Dodgers atop most bullpen rankings.
With all the depth, it’s been discussed at length who the odd man out will be with many believing it could be Paco Rodriguez or Chris Withrow. However, according to Mark Saxson of ESPN LA, Don Mattingly implied Paco will be on the big league roster when the 2014 season starts:
Don Mattingly intimated today that Paco Rodriguez will start the season in the majors. “To me, he’s one of our guys,” he said.
— Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) February 18, 2014
In just his second season with the Dodgers, Rodriguez pitched in 76 games last season, throwing 54.1 innings and serving as an effective situational lefty for Mattingly. That was until Rodriguez appeared to tire out in the latter stages of the season, in which he then struggled with his command.
Despite his late struggles, Rodriguez was part of the NLDS roster when the Dodgers faced the Atlanta Braves but he was largely ineffective, surrendering four hits, two runs and posting an ERA of 27.00 and 9.00 WHIP in 0.2 innings worth of work. As a result, when the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Rodriguez was left off the roster.
Should he have a spot on the roster, Rodriguez may benefit from the extra arms the Dodgers seemingly have set to come out of the bullpen. Howell is returning and depending on how the back end of the starting rotation shakes out, Paul Maholm may make it a trio of lefty-handers in the bullpen. With those options at his disposal, Mattingly may be less reliant on using Rodriguez for entire innings or two innings at a time.
What may further aid Rodriguez’s cause is the 22-year-old went through an accelerated learning curve last season and he should be more prepared for the rigors that come with the regular season and a run into the playoffs. If Rodriguez is able to regain the form he displayed in the early-to-mid stages of last season, the Dodgers should feel confident in their bullpen options as games progress to the final three innings.
ICYMI: Here’s our Dodgers Nation Week In Review Video