Without exaggeration, if you’ve watched Los Angeles Dodgers baseball closely over the last few years, most fans would agree that right-hander Blake Treinen is the team’s most important reliever.
The way he’s been deployed by manager Dave Roberts in tough spots, regardless of the inning, and the amount of times he’s escaped unscathed, speaks to his true abilities. His full 2021 campaign really drove that point home after he debuted with the team during the shortened 2020.
In two-plus seasons with LA, Treinen owns a 2.50 ERA, 2.98 FIP and 1.02 WHIP with 112 strikeouts in 101 innings pitched. Unfortunately, fans may not see him building upon those numbers anytime soon.
The Dodgers provided an update on Treinen’s status on Saturday — he’s currently on the injured list with a shoulder ailment — and it’s been confirmed he’ll be headed for an MRI next week. That only further suggests his condition hasn’t gotten any better.
Originally, the timetable for his return was already murky, but now this worsens it. The Dodgers’ bullpen will have to soldier on without their most valuable arm.
Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen is headed for an MRI on his shoulder
When Treinen first hit the IL, he talked about how his shoulder tightness was likely a result from the Dodgers beginning the year in cold-weather cities (Denver and Cincinnati), but his issues may have been deeper than that.
"“The arm still doesn’t feel good. It’s obviously more than we initially thought. Clearly. He hasn’t been to see the doctor in a couple weeks. So we’ll know more when the doc sees him and we get a prognosis.”"
Treinen has been on the IL since April 22 and hasn’t pitched in a game since April 14. Even worse? He hasn’t touched a baseball in two weeks. If he misses a big portion of the season, the Dodgers may have to come up with an entirely new bullpen plan because of how important Treinen is to the order of operations.
There are a few silver linings here, however. The Dodgers have the best ERA (2.16) in MLB and the third-best reliever ERA (2.65). The bullpen has maintained a 0.91 WHIP and .189 opponents’ batting average, both of which are tops in the league. A number of other relievers, such as Brusdar Graterol, Alex Vesia, Justin Bruihl and Evan Phillips have gotten more reps in the early going, which will better prepare the Dodgers as the season progresses.
Additionally, starter Andrew Heaney has begun his throwing progression from his shoulder issue (he was shut down back on April 20), so the rotation could get a boost sooner than expected, which will take some pressure off the bullpen.
If any team is built to absorb a loss the magnitude of Treinen’s, it’s the Dodgers, who stocked up on plenty of arms this offseason and prepared for the future by giving a number of the aforementioned relievers appropriate run during the 2021 campaign. That’ll help other guys fall into different roles so the unit is even more prepared come October.
But that’s assuming everyone progresses as expected. If a few trajectories don’t go according to plan, an extended Treinen absence could really upend the plans for the 2022 bullpen, which has a ton of new faces after Kenley Jansen, Corey Knebel and Joe Kelly departed in free agency.