Dodgers RHP Brusdar Graterol is entering an important year in 2023. For the first time since he joined the Dodgers in 2020, there’s an opening in the back of the bullpen. Kenley Jansen is gone; so, too is Craig Kimbrel. The Dodgers need a closer, and Graterol can be that guy.
Thus far in spring, Graterol has been electric for the Dodgers. He’s made five appearances, all scoreless, allowing just five hits and zero walks while striking out four. Graterol has looked as good as ever early in spring, which is why he’s been the talk of the Dodgers clubhouse.
“His ceiling is as high as he wants it to go,” Dodgers assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness said to Mike DiGiovanni of the LA Times. “He’s a very hard worker. He’s one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen. He fields so well he could win a Gold Glove.”
So could the ceiling lead him to the long-time closer of the Dodgers bullpen? At least for this season, manager Dave Roberts isn’t so sure — but it’s not because he doesn’t want him back there.
“I trust Brusdar in any situation,” Roberts said. “You could argue that some of the spots I’ve put him in are more leverage than a three-run save situation in the ninth. People get caught up a lot in a role and feel that’s their value. That’s something as a coach that I have to navigate and understand.”per Mike DiGiovanni of the LA Times
Roberts made it very clear last season that he doesn’t care about the traditional closer. While RHP Evan Phillips was the team’s best reliever, he didn’t want to be forced to save him for the 9th inning. Roberts know that sometimes, the most important moment in a game can come in the 6th, 7th or 8th inning, and he wants to be able to use his best guys in that position.
So, is Brusdar going to be the team’s full-time closer this season? Absolutely not. Is he going to get opportunities to close, along with some other people? Absolutely. And when he gets in there, his teammate, Alex Vesia, knows he’s going to be dominant.
“He’s got the best stuff on the planet,” Alex Vesia said to Mike DiGiovanni of the LA Times about Graterol. “He’s gonna be a huge part of our bullpen, whether it’s in the seventh or eighth or ninth inning.”
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