The Bullpen Conundrum: The Case For Anybody?
By Scott Andes
The Dodger bullpen is more muddled than it it’s ever been. I worry that the 2015 bullpen will be a repeat of the blowpen that was incapable of holding leads last year.
When the new Dodger brain trust decided to overhaul the roster this past winter, they didn’t put focus on the one area that probably needed the most focus. Instead they signed a collection of misfit pitchers. Bringing in non roster invites, and pitchers with extensive injury histories into the fold this spring.
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I’m sure most of the hodge podge of pitchers in camp this year are capable of pitching the ninth inning and or holding a lead late in games. That’s probably what the Dodger brain trust is hoping for as well. However I remain a little skeptical on whether they can find the right group of relievers from the nomads in camp.
Building a bullpen isn’t an easy job. That is simply because relief pitching is volatile from one year to the next. One year a reliever is an all-star, and the next year he could get hurt, or simply be ineffective from overuse. It’s a slippery slope to walk. The bullpen is always filled with moving parts.
The brain trust started out by doing the first thing that needed to be done, getting rid of the terrible pitchers. Brian Wilson, Jamey Wright, Scott Elbert, and Chris Perez were all terrible pitchers. Getting those guys off the roster was the beginning step.
Once the brain trust shuffled those bums off to Buffalo, then the true rebuilding could begin. The first move was acquiring right hander Chris Hatcher from the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade. The brain trust had been coveting him for quite a while. They traded for veteran Joel Peralta, and acquired youngster Adam Liberatore. More moves would follow.
The signings of non roster invites and pitchers coming off of injury also followed. They Signed guys like David Huff, Sergio Santos, David Aardsma. They acquired Juan Nicasio, left hander Erik Bedard, and former swingman Mike Bolsinger.
There have been some interesting moves. They signed former Dodger Chin-hui Tsao. He pitched for the Dodgers in 2007, and was involved in some kind of game fixing scandals, resulting in his expulsion from the Taiwan League.
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The Dodgers signed injury riddled pitchers like Mike Adams, and Brandon Beachy. Of course Beachy is a starting pitcher, but if he recovers in time to pitch this year, they could stash him in the bullpen and use him as a reliever until he rebuilds his arm strength.
The club also brought in former Dodger Ramon Troncoso, who was a victim of the Joe Torre disease of bullpen usage. If you remember Torre overused him to the point where his sinker ball was no longer effective and his arm nearly fell off.
The club signed right hander Chad Gaudin, Ben Rowen, and right hander Dustin McGowan. Will any of those guys make an impact in 2015? Can any of those guys pitch the ninth inning, and fill in for the injured Kenley Jansen until he returns?
The club will also have holdovers J.P Howell, and Brandon League returning to the fold. We recently discovered that Howell has a tight groin and could be sidelined several days. League is entering the final year of his three-year contract, and undoubtedly his final year as a Dodger. Can he continue to induce grounders and keep the ball in the ball park? Of course there is our elite closer Kenley Jansen who is recovering from foot surgery.
Call to the Pen
Who knows. Let us not forget that the Dodgers also have a small group of in house options that can contribute as well. Guys like Paco Rodriguez, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, and Carlos Frias should be considered too.
It’s hard for the club to judge these relievers based on the limited work they’ll get in camp this spring. They have too many pitchers to choose from. Eventually they will start to shrink the pool of available relievers, whittling the choices down to the final seven.
I think the club will have to just mix and match from what they have. Using a combination of a few of the youngsters and the veterans might be the best way. I don’t know how the Dodgers are going to survive until Kenley comes back.
The front office is hoping that one or a few or more of these pitchers will be a diamond in the rough. They’re certainly privy to more information than we are. The important thing is to not use horrendous relievers anymore.
Forming the Dodger bullpen this year will continue to be a work in progress. Somehow the Dodgers need to find the right ingredients, like baking a cake. I still remain somewhat skeptical.