Dodgers Bullpen Will Be Great


During the ninth inning of Game 2 on Saturday, the Dodgers bullpen looked shaky and allowed four runs which almost evaporated the entire seven run lead. While we don’t have to worry about Brandon League right now thankfully, there are still things to iron out in the pen. It’s technically still Spring Training for every MLB team, but the Dodgers had a regular season series before anyone else has played for real. It’s no surprise that there are still kinks and work to be done in order to shape this potentially elite bullpen.

This Spring Jamey Wright has looked well, like Jamey Wright. On Saturday, the 39-year old veteran served up a run on two hits with two walks in the ninth inning against the D-backs. He was only in there after Chris Withrow and Paco Rodriguez couldn’t get the job done. Hyun-jin Ryu, the winning starter, allowed just 1 walk over 5 innings pitched, but Dodger relievers walked 7 Snakes combined. Each side had 8 walks on Saturday. Jose Dominguez was charged with 3 runs, and his ERA stands at a laughable 81.00.

Chris Perez could provide a great seventh inning option for the Dodgers. Photo: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

During Game 1 we saw solid outings from Chris Perez, Brian Wilson, and Kenley Jansen. The trio of former and current closers will be a seventh through ninth inning wall any opposing team will have to contend with. We saw Kenley Jansen allow an uncharacteristic homerun to Mark Trumbo, but remember Kenley hasn’t had to face Trumbo very often while he was in the American League. In fact, Jansen struck out Trumbo twice in three at-bats he had against him before the homerun. Trumbo will just be a new nuisance the Dodgers will have to learn to pitch to this season now that he is on the D-backs. We saw from the Opening Series that Trumbo is not very adept in left field, and our hitters should take advantage of that this year.

Kenley Jansen will be fine, and he still struck out Gerardo Parra to end the game and secure the two-game sweep. The converted catcher struck out 7 batters in 7 innings during Spring Training. He only allowed 2 hits with no runs. The Trumbo homerun hurt, but Kenley should be on the road to dominance again this season. If Kenley should waver, the Dodgers will also have the fantastically eccentric Brian Wilson.

Wilson has looked great since reinventing his career with the Dodgers after the Giants didn’t want him back after his second Tommy John Surgery. Wilson will be a key figure in the 2014 Dodger bullpen, and during game 1 he showcased his skills not only for the Aussies but also the contenders. During Spring Wilson allowed 2 runs on 3 hits with 3 strikeouts and 2 walks over 4 1/3 innings of work. Wilson was experimenting with a knuckleball, and it is clear that Wilson’s training regiment hasn’t relented at all. Wilson struck out Aaron Hill and Martin Prado during his perfect eighth inning in Game 1. Wilson has made the full transition to the other side, and we welcome both his personality and his pitching.

Chris Withrow might be headed back to Albuquerque soon, but the right-hander will be called upon if needed throughout the season.

Is Paco tired, or is there a flaw in his delivery? Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Withrow looked shaky in the sixth inning of game 2 after he came in to relieve Ryu. He immediately walked Aaron Hill and allowed a single to Paul Goldschmidt. Withrow did settle down to get out of the inning unscathed after he induced a double play from Prado and an inning ending groundout from Miguel Montero. Withrow is still young at 24, and his Spring saw him give up 5 runs on 5 hits with 6 strikeouts and 7 walks in 7 1/3 innings. Withrow has got to get his control better and decrease the walks in order to be more successful at the big league level. With Paul Maholm on the team, it seems likely Withrow will be optioned soon.

Jose Dominguez is another reliever besides Withrow who will most likely be optioned once they return to the states or Brandon League or Chad Billingsley return. Dominguez is a fire baller, but he has to learn to throw strikes with that heat. The disastrous ninth inning in Game 2 began with Dominguez walking Pollack and Hill consecutively. Once again, like Withrow, Dominguez needs to walk batters less. A Martin Prado single followed the walks, and runs commenced. Dominguez has the right stuff, but the Dodgers need to learn how to corral his talents in order to optimize his results.

J.P. Howell will be the main left-handed guy Don Mattingly goes to this season. Howell pitched solidly for the Dodgers last season, and that resulted in

Watch out next time, Mark Trumbo. Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

his new two-year $11.25 million deal with the Dodgers. Howell gave up some Spring runs this year (3 runs on 6 hits over 5 2/3 innings), but I feel that Howell will be a reliable middle relief or LOOGY option for Mattingly this year. Paco Rodriguez, the Dodgers’ other lefty, is the bigger question mark in this bullpen. Paco struggled at the end of 2013, and whether it was fatigue or a supposed mechanical problem, Paco will need to be able to last the whole season otherwise he may find himself on the bubble.

Paco was one of my favorite Dodgers last season, and I think he’ll be able to replicate that success he had at the start of 2013 in this new season. Rick Honeycutt has worked with Paco on a mechanical flaw where Paco was showing the ball to the hitters in his pitch delivery. Paco looked a bit unstable in his outing on Saturday, but we shouldn’t give up on Paco.

Paul Maholm will be pitching out of the bullpen as a long reliever, and I’m okay with that. Maholm may even find himself in the rotation if Josh Beckett isn’t healthy by mid-April. While I’d much rather have Chris Withrow or Jose Dominguez in the bullpen than Maholm, it is inevitable that he will get the spot. Yesterday, Maholm got the job done in the ninth inning by striking out Miguel Montero.

Chris Withrow is on the bubble. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Seth Rosin was in the roster for Sydney, and if the Dodgers do remove the Rule 5 Draftee, then they would have to offer him back to Philadelphia. Jamey Wright and Brandon League’s existence makes Rosin’s chance to stay with the club decrease. Although Ned Colletti seemed intrigued with Rosin’s projection during the Winter Development Program, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rosin sticks around somehow. The 25-year old pitched very well this Spring and ended up with a 1.64 ERA with 12 strikeouts and 2 walks in 11 innings pitched. Rosin has no doubt been more effective than Jamey Wright since joining the Dodgers, and I would love to see him stay a Dodger.

The bullpen indeed looked shaky in Game 2, and I’m not going to say that we will not experience some blown leads and more Trumbo homeruns this season from the pen, but the relief squad will shape up to be one of the better ones in the league. Don Mattingly has some decisions to make on who is staying and who is going to be an Isotope or in Rosin’s case, a Phillie. Rick Honeycutt has his work cut out for him this season, but I’m confident that he can work out the kinks in the bullpen and lead this group of pitchers to another successful season.