For a team that manager Don Mattingly has said repeatedly is built on pitching, the Los Angeles Dodgers began the 2015 season faced with the prospect, and in some cases the expectation, of having another shaky bullpen.
It was their Achilles heel last season and was a weakness that purportedly was solved by not re-signing Chris Perez and banishing Brian Wilson. However, that notion was put to the test when it was determined the Dodgers would be without Kenley Jansen and Brandon League for the first month or so of the season.
In their absence, new-comer to the organization Joel Peralta, and young arms Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia have answered the bell. The trio has combined to throw 17.2 innings, racked up 23 strikeouts and allowed just one earned run.
Peralta was the only of the three used in Saturday’s win over the Colorado Rockies, earning his third save of the season. When asked about the bullpen, Mattingly expressed confidence in the group that’s been a surprise.
“For the most part they’ve thrown the ball really well,” Mattingly said. “They’ve kind of settled in. We’ve got a number of weapons out there with guys you feel comfortable going to, a lot of different guys who are throwing the ball well. Right now things are good out there.”
Mattingly said prior to the season beginning he wouldn’t name a temporary closer with Jansen out and instead would rely on matchups. Chris Hatcher earned a save on Opening Day but had a bit of a rough patch, which opened the door for Peralta, who leads the team in saves.
Peralta’s six appearances is tied with Garcia, Hatcher, J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez for the team lead; Baez is a close second with five relief appearances. Garcia leads all relievers with seven innings under his belt.
As he indicated in Spring Training, Mattingly has used his bullpen as he best sees fit in the moment. It’s at times led to instances of some overanalyzing on his part — see Rodriguez frequently being used only to face one batter — but it doesn’t appear to have had an adverse effect.
The bullpen concluded the six-game homestand with 28 strikeouts in 20.1 innings and just one run allowed. Impressive as the relievers have been, the group will have a different look once Jansen and League return.