By Jon Weisman
The Dodgers are down to two left-handers in their Major League bullpen after optioning Adam Liberatore to the minors following the team’s 5-4 victory Monday over Texas.
The question now is, will they go down to one?
Since we last checked in on the bullpen, it has been whittled in predictable fashion, leaving the following:
Right-handers (7): Pedro Baez, Joe Blanton, Louis Coleman, Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, Chris Hatcher, Kenley Jansen
Left-handers (2): Luis Avilan, J.P. Howell
Frias is a special case because the focus for him is now on potentially joining the starting rotation for a turn or two. Putting him aside for the time being, the Dodgers need to lose one more reliever to get down to the likely total of seven.
As one of two lefties from the roster last season, Avilan has been a safe bet this spring to make the team. But he does have options remaining, and he is tangibly struggling, with Dave Roberts telling reporters after Avilan allowed a walk, a single and two doubles to six batters Sunday that the 26-year-old had no fastball command.
“You don’t want to completely judge on spring training, especially if a guy has a track record, but there has got to be some success and some confidence going into a season,” Roberts said, according to Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. “I think that you have two lefties in the pen, they both have got to get lefties out and so we’ve tried to put them in spots to get lefties and as we kind of get towards the end of camp, he’s going to get those opportunities that we are looking for him to have better success.”
Baez and Garcia, two right-handers who would otherwise be fighting for the last spot in the bullpen, could conceivably both make the team if the Dodgers feel more comfortable with them right now than the second lefty. Baez has pitched 7 1/3 consecutive shutout innings with 10 strikeouts while allowing six baserunners. Garcia, however, has himself allowed runs in three of his past four outings, including one Sunday in his return from a week off due to minor knee soreness.
Here’s more to frustrate Dodger detractors: Fangraphs projects the Dodger bullpen to have the second-best WAR in baseball, behind only the Yankees.
What else can I tell you?
- You know things are getting close to serious when Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson are all starting a day game after a night game. Puig and Hernandez returned to action Monday after days off to recuperate from injuries.
- Similarly, Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell were each extended to get four outs in relief.
- Corey Seager is nearing his big-league return by playing in a minor-league game for the third straight day, according to Stephen.
- Howie Kendrick and Yasmani Grandal won’t be flying to Los Angeles when the team comes home for Thursday’s Freeway Series opener, reports Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Update: Dave Roberts told reporters today that Grandal is expected to join the Dodgers in Anaheim on Saturday and to be ready Opening Day.
- The unconscious Turner hit a fifth-inning, game-tying grand slam Monday, and has eight extra-base hits and a 1.852 OPS in 23 Spring Training plate appearances — with one strikeout. Padres pitcher Robbie Erlin is the only person to fan Turner this month.
- Charlie Culberson, who has made his reputation on his fielding this month, went 3 for 4, capped by a walkoff single.
- Alex Wood was cruising until the fifth inning, when with one out he gave up a single and, with two out, a walk and a three-run Rougned Odor home run. “It was the best I’ve felt,” Wood, who struck out six, told Doug Padilla of ESPN.com. “I could have gone an extra, maybe two. I feel ready, really confident.”
- Hyun-Jin Ryu is making actual progress, notes Padilla, who reports that the lefty “will throw a final bullpen session Wednesday and then start facing hitters in live batting practice by the weekend.” That means Ryu could still be ready to pitch in official games before May is over.
- Ross Stripling gets his first big-league Cactus League start today. Stripling, who has pitched six shutout innings with six strikeouts this month, might only have an outside shot to take the No. 5 spot in the rotation April 8 at San Francisco, but could be laying the groundwork for appearances down the road.