What Will the Dodgers Opening Day Bullpen Look Like?
An elite bullpen is one of the most important things a successful baseball team has to have, and over the years, your Los Angeles Dodgers have had a stellar bullpen. LA led the National League in team ERA in 2022 with a 2.87 ERA, and will look to have a similar year in 2023.
We have a good sense of what some of the bullpen will look like, as a lot of last season’s top contributors will be back. However, the Dodgers have eight spots to fill on the Opening Day roster, and at this point, there are definitely a few question marks. So, here’s what the Opening Day bullpen looks like right now.
We know the bullpen will be led by LA’s best reliever in 2022, Evan “Fireman” Phillps, follwed by Brusdar Graterol and Yency Almonte. All three are right-handed pitchers and have proven themselves in big spots.
Then there’s Daniel Hudson, who’s going to be in there as soon as he’s fully healthy, but there’s a chance he’s not ready for Opening Day. But for now, we’ll pencil him in as one of the guys, leaving four spots left.
On Saturday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed two more of the players who will make up the bullpen (per the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett). Roberts said two lefties, Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson, will fill the bullpen roles; but the other few spots are still wide open.
So, that leaves an important question:
Who Will be the Other Two Guys in the Bullpen?
If Roberts does, in fact, want to include another lefty, he has some options. Not very good ones, to be fair, but options, nonetheless.
Gonzalez has been plagued with injuries and last pitched in 2021 after missing the 2022 season due to a left elbow injury. The lefty reliever was set to return sometime in 2022, but was constantly pushed back, so he ended up missing the entire season. The 27-year-old has not been impressive in his spring training outings. He’s pitched in four games, and has an 0-1 record with a 13.50 ERA and four strikeouts in 3.1 innings. Those numbers are pretty atrocious, but he is still recovering after missing major time; nonetheless, his chances of being on the mound look thin due to his recent performances.
The 25-year-old also hasn’t looked very great in his outings, so making a case for Bruihl is tough. However, he did see the field last season and was solid in those outings. In 2022, he went 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA, 13 strikeouts, and a 1.18 WHIP in 23.2 innings. As I mentioned, Justin’s spring training has been abysmal; in four games, he’s gone 0-1 with a 12.00 ERA and three strikeouts in three innings.
The only other lefty with the Dodgers at this point in spring, Kolarek’s chances of making the Opening Day roster have to be the slimmest. The former 2020 World Series champion signed back with LA this offseason on a minor league deal because why not.
Kolarek has actually been the best of the three lefties this spring, making five appearances and going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in five innings. Still, it feels like it would take a lot to get him on the team’s Opening Day roster. At this point, it’s more likely Roberts just goes with a few more righties.
That could include anyone like Shelby Miller, Phil Bickford, and even one or two of the guys who don’t fill Tony Gonsolin’s spot on the Opening Day roster, which is Ryan Pepiot, Michael Grove and Andre Jackson.
You do have to take spring training stats with a grain of salt as players are still getting some time under their belt. I’m sure the Dodgers will work their magic and have at least one of those lefties ready to go come Opening Day, but we’ll see what happens.
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