Manager Don Mattingly turned to left-handed relief pitcher Paco Rodriguez on Friday night to get the final out of the Dodgers' 9-8 victory over the Angels, pulling closer Brandon League with two outs in the ninth inning and runners on second and third base. The move wasn't one Mattingly would have done in the regular season, but at the same time it showed the confidence he has in Rodriguez, the left-hander drafted in the second round in 2012.
"The one thing we found out about Paco is he throws strikes with a lot of different pitches, and he doesn't seem to be afraid of anything. Last year we brought him up in San Francisco and he threw six straight strikes," Mattingly said. "Paco has been really impressive. We can use him in different ways. We feel like he's got weapons for the righties and the lefties, and he's had a good camp. There's nothing really negative about Paco."
But despite the strong performance by Rodriguez — a 3.09 ERA, 13 strikeouts and three walks in 11⅔ innings — he may find himself on the outside looking in once the opening day roster is finalized on Sunday. Rodriguez, like Josh Wall, has options, and non-roster reliever Kevin Gregg and starters Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang might find themselves in the bullpen as well.
Rodriguez was called in after League already gave up one run, and allowed the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position. Mattingly said pitch count played a factor in removing League, as he threw 20 pitches in his second straight night on the mound.
"That was just a work situation there. With him going back to back, we were only going to allow him to go only so many pitches. It's one of those things. I did want him to finish it, but that could get into an 8-10 pitch at-bat and I didn't want to get there," Mattingly said. "In the regular season, that's his game."
Capuano will pitch in relief on Saturday in the Dodgers' spring finale, a hint that he will open the regular season in the bullpen.
"We're going to see Cap tomorrow in some capacity. We're not sure how, whether it's two batters or an inning," Mattingly said. "He's only going to have one day off between tomorrow and opening day, so it will be something short."
Mattingly talked to Capuano, Harang, and Ted Lilly in the past week about possibly moving to the bullpen. It appears some have been more receptive to the idea than others.
"I'm pretty sure that Cap wants to (pitch in relief), but I'm not sure we've gotten there with Aaron yet," Mattingly said.