By Jon Weisman
After 35 months, Brandon League’s tenure as a Dodger appears to have come to an end.
The 32-year-old reliever has been designated for assignment. If he clears waivers, he could conceivably find his way back to Dodger Stadium through the minors, though in doing so he would have to turn down the opportunity to become a free agent and perhaps find immediate Major League work.
A 2011 American League All-Star, League was one of six Seattle Mariners who combined to no-hit the Dodgers on June 8, 2012. Less than two months later, Los Angeles acquired him in exchange for minor-leaguers Logan Bawcom and Leon Landry.
League had a 2.30 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP, struck out 27 in 27 1/3 innings, saved six games in six opportunities and stranded all six inherited runners down the stretch for the Dodgers that season, leading the franchise to re-ink him for the 2013-15 seasons. But in 2013, the strikeouts disintegrated. By Independence Day two years ago, League had allowed 51 baserunners in 29 2/3 innings while fanning 13.
Moved out of the closer role, League showed slight improvement over the 2013 season’s final few months. And in 2014, though his solid strikeout ratio from when he first became a Dodger remained a thing of the past, he used grounders to maximum advantage, leading all MLB relievers by inducing 18 batters to ground into double plays.
In his final meaningful regular-season game for the Dodgers, pitching in the 10th and 11th innings on September 22 during the division-clinching series with San Francisco, four of the first six batters he faced got base hits — but none scored, thanks to a 6-4-3 double play, a monster Yasiel Puig assist from center field and finally, a strikeout.
As it turned out, League was the only Dodger to pitch in all four games of the 2014 National League Division Series, allowing neither a run nor an inherited run to score. In fact, League is currently the last Dodger pitcher with a postseason victory, inducing Jhonny Peralta into, yes, a double play to end the top of the eighth inning of Game 2, moments before Matt Kemp’s game-winning homer.
League was two games into Cactus League play this year when he apparently overworked himself at a March 11 bullpen session, two days after a poor outing. He was placed on the disabled list before the 2015 season began, and despite a 10-game rehabilitation tour of Rancho Cucamonga and Oklahoma City in June, the Dodgers decided he was not part of their bullpen plan going forward.
His 149-game Dodger totals: 144 2/3 innings, 3.55 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings, 29 of 47 inherited runners stranded.