After losing his role as closer in 2013, Brandon League entered this season without a clear role out of the bullpen. The Los Angeles Dodgers added Chris Perez and Paul Maholm, and re-signed Brian Wilson, who appeared to be a lock for a full season as the setup man.
Wilson faltered and landed on the disabled list early, which opened a window of opportunity for League. While got work in late-game situations, he was far from considered a lock as the team’s setup man.
Of his 63 appearances last season, League entered the game in the eighth inning or later in 35 games. After seven consecutive scoreless outings in May, League said he was open to any role with the team and had regained some confidence; the right-hander eventually ran the scoreless streak to 10 games.
Among Dodger relievers, League’s 2.57 ERA was second-best among relief pitchers who had a minimum of 10 appearances and his 11 holds were the third most on the team. However, one knock on the reliever was his allowing 12 of 29 inherited runners to score.
While he may not have had a set role carved out, League improved his ERA, WHIP and number of holds compared to 2013. League also appeared in all four National League Division Series games and earned a win in Game 3; he threw a total of two scoreless innings and allowed just one hit in the series.
In the final month of the regular season, League allowed earned runs in just two of his 10 relief appearances. During the stretch, he pitched nine innings, held a 2.00 ERA and earned three holds along the way.
League enters the season in the final year of his contract, though the deal does include a vesting option for 2016 that is dependent on the total number of games finished he records.
Assuming Perez isn’t re-signed and if Wilson continues to struggle, League could compete for the setup man role. However, whereas he may have previously competed against veteran arms, he may face a challenge from Pedro Baez, who was handed the ball in critical situations last season.