Over the weekend, the Los Angeles Dodgers were dealt a bit of tough news when Joe Kelly was forced to hit the 15-day injured list because of elbow inflammation. The electrifying bullpen addition acquired to stablize the weakest part of the roster is now gone for at least two weeks and maybe longer.
The Dodgers waited to make a corresponding move and finally decided on who'd be taking Kelly's spot on the active roster. It's former prospect Gus Varland.
Remember him? The Dodgers acquired the right-hander back in 2021 when they made a bizarre trade with the Athletics. Then, this past offseason, Varland was selected by the Brewers in the Rule 5 Draft after two disappointing campaigns at Double-A Tulsa.
Varland didn't last in Milwaukee, however. He made eight appearances and got wrecked (11 earned runs on 15 hits and eight walks across 8.2 innings) and was designated for assignment after one of the worst performances in MLB history back on May 15. The right-hander allowed nine earned runs on six hits and three walks in 0.2 innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.
As a result of the DFA and clearing waivers, he was sent back to the Dodgers, per the Rule 5 Draft provisions, and has been with Triple-A OKC ever since.
Dodgers' latest roster move features potential feel-good story
Ever since Varland's move back to the Dodgers organization, he's compiled a 2.16 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 39 strikeouts in 33.1 innings. Now primarily in a relief role, it appears as if the 26-year-old has adjusted well in addition to overcoming his injuries and lost 2020 season.
Varland's success at Oklahoma City is no fluke, either. He's doing this in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League where many pitchers have gone to die. He nearly experienced that fate in the Texas League with Double-A Tulsa in 2021 and 2022, but that was when he was a starter/transitioning to a starter.
Varland will have a little under two weeks to audition for a role in the Dodgers' pen, assuming all goes well with Kelly. But even if it does, with so many struggling relievers on the active roster, Varland has the chance to make a late-season push to secure a spot in the big leagues for the remainder of the year.
The Dodgers badly need quality innings from their relievers now that the rotation is back on track with Julio Urías finding his groove, Clayton Kershaw returning from the IL, and Lance Lynn enjoying a renaissance after the White Sox trade.
This would be an incredible full-circle moment for Garland if he can deliver and put his lethal fastball-slider mix into action fast.