Dodgers continuing to burn through relievers is a bad sign for rest of 2024

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers
San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers / Chris Coduto/GettyImages

Just one full month into the season, the Dodgers' transactions page is already riddled with roster moves — options down, recalls up — almost entirely involving pitchers. LA has been saddled with some very inopportune injuries, but the bullpen and its depth was supposed to be one of the team's major improvements coming off of a bad start at the beginning of last season.

Since having to start the year without Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen in the bullpen, the Dodgers established what seems to be a cycle that's also already had a wrench thrown in its gear by injury. A variation of a "Kyle Hurt, Nabil Crismatt, Dinelson Lamet, Gus Varland, JP Feyereisen" sequence has been interrupted by a 60-day IL stint for Hurt. Ricky Vanasco, Landon Knack, and Nick Ramirez have all also been shuffled up and down already.

The necessity of that shuffling is a little dubious, as the Dodgers bullpen still has five other arms (six, if you count de factor starter Ryan Yarbrough) that remained (not always good but) steadfast throughout April.

These options and recalls for replacements also usually come after a reliever has only thrown a couple of innings — typically, even, to good effect — so it doesn't seem like the issue can really be about the pitcher needing rest. So, what's going on?

Why are the Dodgers cycling out relievers so often to start the season?

The bullpen has needed to take on a much heavier load because of more injuries in the rotation, which has led to more bullpen games and longer outings for relievers. However, it's still a little unclear why the Dodgers haven't just settled on a core to replace Graterol, Treinen, and now Ryan Brasier and maybe Joe Kelly, when some of the pitchers who have come through the cycle have looked fine when they're in the majors.

Lamet only pitched just over four innings the last time he was up, but he only gave up one earned run during that span. Crismatt (currently on the 26-man but already called up and DFA'ed once) is in almost the exact same boat. Vanasco only got the ball in two innings of one game, but he didn't allow a hit during that span.

Taking pitchers like Lamet and Crismatt, who don't have minor league options and have to be DFA'ed each time they're replaced, off the roster also leaves them vulnerable to being snatched up by other teams off of waivers, which would leave the Dodgers' depth in an even worse position.

It's all a little puzzling, to say the least. The Dodgers clearly have their own gripes with these pitchers that they feel warrants the constant movement, but it doesn't seem like a very sustainable practice. Things are likely to stabilize a little when Treinen returns from injury, but there'll still be unanswered questions when that does happen.