By Jon Weisman
No one’s really a fan of an eight-man bullpen and a four-man bench, but it has basically made sense for the Dodgers the past seven days, and they plan to continue that way for the next several.
Dave Roberts said today that the Dodgers would probably retain the eight/four split into their upcoming road series in New York and Chicago, a roster construction that began when Charlie Culberson was optioned May 18 to make room for Mike Bolsinger.
The reason for the extra reliever is pretty clear: With starting pitchers that aren’t Clayton Kershaw averaging barely five innings per start over the past week, the bullpen benefits from an extra arm even before you factor in extra innings.
That has outweighed the benefit of an extra bat off the bench, even on the days that Adrian Gonzalez and Yasmani Grandal were unable to enter games defensively. It’s not ideal, but outside of the 17-inning game Sunday, when all hands and a couple of feet were on deck, the Dodgers haven’t had a situation where they needed a pinch-hitter and didn’t have one.
Kershaw’s complete game Monday gave the bullpen a much-needed breather, and the Dodgers will end their stretch of 20 games in 20 days with a travel day Thursday. But there are still some relievers who could benefit from reduced duty — Joe Blanton, J.P. Howell, Adam Liberatore and Louis Coleman all received heavy use in San Diego. So onward the team goes, as is.
Presumably, a game will come where they’ll miss that extra position player, but the odds of that in the short term remain less than the need for the extra reliever.
The Dodgers will probably return to a five-man bench next week, either when they have to address the expiration of Alex Guerrero’s rehab assignment, or the activation of Scott Van Slyke from his. Van Slyke is scheduled to play nine innings for Triple-A Oklahoma City tonight (with Hyun-Jin Ryu set up to throw four innings or 60-65 pitches for the same team Wednesday). Guerrero is again in the lineup for Double-A Tulsa tonight, playing third base.
Meanwhile, Grandal is ready to go at catcher, Gonzalez has a .375 on-base percentage since returning to the starting lineup, and Bolsinger has had last week’s pitch limit of 75 to 85 lifted.