Dodgers News: Luis Avilan, Jim Johnson Adjusting To New Bullpen Philosophy

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After surprisingly emerging as a strength rather than a weakness, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen struggled to sustain its collective early-season success and became an issue that needed to be addressed.

The Dodgers appeared to achieve as much by acquiring relievers Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson in a complex, three-team, 13-player trade that involved the Atlanta Braves and Miami Marlins. However, both Avilan and Johnson have had their share of struggles with the Dodgers.

Along with the former Braves needing to get acclimated in a new environment with new teammates, they’ve joined a bullpen that operates differently than what they were accustomed to in Atlanta. Avilan detailed some of the changes with J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News:

I was really surprised,” Avilan said. “Jim Johnson and me were talking about that. When we got here, we asked who had the most appearances. We were like … I don’t know, man. I don’t know what to say. Different philosophy.” Avilan said he’s even been told to warm up in the bullpen less often since the trade. In Atlanta, he said, “sometimes we got up two times, then go pitch. The next day, two times, you go to pitch. People just think ‘It’s fine, you threw one inning.’ People don’t realize how hard it is.”

When the Dodgers acquired Avilan and Johnson, J.P. Howell led the club with 40 appearances; he still leads heading into play Friday, now at 47, with Yimi Garcia in second place (44 appearances).

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly recently discussed the importance and emphasis placed on providing ample rest for his relievers, particularly Howell as he appeared to wear down last season. Los Angeles also operates their bullpen as one largely without defined roles — outside of Kenley Jansen as closer — which isn’t necessarily commonplace across baseball.

Since the July 30 trade, Avilan has appeared in six and Johnson in eight of the Dodgers’ 18 games.


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  1. Can’t make heads or tails with this article. What are they adjusting to? Having to warm up less? Not having a defined role? Is it better or worse than Atlanta? They seem to be pitching a lot worse.

    1. Adjusting to little things like knowing how many times they’ve appeared and don’t warm up too long.

    2. The answer is both. The Dodger bullpen lacks defined roles outside of the closer because the bullpen has not been good. It’s hard to know what anyone’s role is when they can’t be relied on to keep those roles. Also yes they are adjusting to not getting warmed up as often for no reason. Stability and repetition is important to most relievers which tells me that bullpen management is a serious weakness. This may explain why so many relievers have failed on this team, or the relievers failed and the bullpen roles fell apart and have never stabilized. Either way it’s bad news for the playoffs.

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