To the surprise of many, including myself, one of the greatest strengths for the Dodgers last season was their bullpen. The relief pitchers really stepped up their games last season but some credit is due to rookie manager Dave Roberts who masterfully used them.
This success did not go unnoticed to the front office who, opened their checkbooks to retain closer Kenley Jansen’s services to the tune of a five-year $80 million deal. However, the Dodgers did not retain their 8th inning setup man Joe Blanton.
While many Dodgers fans have the dumbfounded look that Blanton had on his face, after surrendering a grand slam to Miguel Montero in the NLCS, stuck in their brain, he still had a very good 2016 campaign. Blanton went 7-2 with a 2.48 ERA, 80 strikeouts, and only 26 walks over 80 innings pitched.
To fill this void, the Dodgers brought in a man that Dodger fans loved to hate: Sergio Romo. According to Jon Heyman, Romo took less money to join his hometown team. While Romo had a 2.64 ERA last season for the San Francisco Giants, he was limited to only 30.2 innings pitched due to injury. The past few seasons, Romo has struggled a bit with his command and has been trying to regain his 2013 form where he was an All-Star and saved 38 games for San Francisco.
In my opinion, Romo is vital to the success of the Dodgers this season. The Los Angeles bullpen must replicate last season’s success for them to make a deep run once again. Romo has the potential to be a diamond in the rough for the Dodgers if he can regain the command of his pitches and fill in the void that Joe Blanton has left in the 8th inning of games.
Without a doubt, Romo has great stuff and at times looks like one of the best relief pitchers in the game. However, in recent seasons, his lack of command has led to huge breakdowns and inconsistent results.
The good news for the Dodgers is that they have Rick Honeycutt, the Dodgers’ pitching coach, who has had great success in helping veteran pitchers regain their old form. If Romo can come close to returning to his old form, the Dodgers’ bullpen has the potential to be even better than it was last year.