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2012 Dodgers exit interviews: The bullpen

A review of the 2012 Dodgers bullpen, which saw 16 different relievers pitch for the Dodgers.

Jennifer Hilderbrand-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Our second of five in a series of 2012 reviews, we look at the Dodgers bullpen, which had numerous characters, three pitchers who at one point definitively held the role of closer.

The relief corps for the Dodgers finished fourth in the National League with a 3.23 ERA and fifth in the league with a 23.3% strikeout rate, though they were just 13th in the NL with a 2.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Here is a look at all 16 pitchers who pitched in relief for the Dodgers in 2012, plus one who didn't.

Kenley Jansen

What went right: Jansen began spring training as the setup man but by the first week of May he claimed the closer role that he was destined for. He had another great year out of the back end of the bullpen, with a 2.22 ERA and 99 strikeouts in 65 innings to go along with 25 saves. One year after setting a major league record with 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings, Jansen struck out only 13.7 per nine innings in 2012. But considering his walk rate declined dramatically from 11.9% of batters faced and 4.36 per nine innings to 8.7% and 3.05, Jansen's trade-off was well worth it, as he set a new career high with an 0.846 WHIP.

What went wrong: For the second straight season Jansen was sidelined for an extended period of time with an irregular heartbeat, as he missed just over three weeks from the end of August into September. Luckily for Jansen the condition was treatable and he will have a cardiac ablation procedure this offseason, designed to correct the problem. The procedure isn't expected to affect his readiness for spring training. On the field, Jansen's average fastball declined from 93.3 mph in 2011 to 91.9 mph in 2012, though that Fangraphs shows Jansen as having thrown his fastball 94.5% of the time suggests a lack of recognition of his cutter.

2013 status: With two years, 73 days of major league service time, Jansen has one more year under team control before he is eligible for salary arbitration.

Ronald Belisario

What went right: For those of us wondering before the season why the Dodgers would continue to put up with Belisario's crap, his 2012 campaign provided quite an answer. Belisario put up 69 strikeouts in 71 innings and a 2.54 ERA, with numbers across the board eerily similar to his stellar 2009 campaign. Despite missing the first 25 games of the season while serving a suspension for testing positive for cocaine, Belisario led the team with 68 games pitched and was an indispensable weapon for manager Don Mattingly all season. Random note: in each of Belisario's three major league seasons he has exactly 13 games finished.

What went wrong: Belisario had a bad stretch from July 8-30, when he gave up runs in seven of 11 outings, putting up a 9.00 ERA during that span, but considering that Belisario allowed just 11 runs in his other 60 innings the bad stretch was nothing more than a blip on the radar.

2013 status: Belisario will be eligible for salary arbitration as a Super Two player this offseason, in line for a raise over the minimum $480,000 he earned in 2012.

Jamey Wright

What went right: For seventh consecutive season Wright bet on himself and won, making a team out of spring training as a non-roster invitee. Wright made the Dodgers in spring training, just as he did with the Mariners, Indians, Royals, Rangers (twice), and Giants. The 37-year old proved to be dependable out of the bullpen, and was the only reliever on the active roster and available to pitch for the entire season. He was especially stingy in the final two months of the season, with just three unintentional walks and 17 strikeouts in his his final 29 games, including a stretch of 13 straight scoreless appearances.

What went wrong: Before those final two months, Wright was Walkie McWalkerson, issuing a free pass to 12.5% of his batters face and 5.31 walks per nine innings, though 20% of those walks were intentional.

2013 status: Wright is a free agent and general manager Ned Colletti expressed an interest in bringing him back, though with a seemingly crowded Dodgers bullpen that might prove difficult. Wright has done enough to earn a major league deal from somewhere, but maybe his annual spring battles are part of some ritual he uses to prepare him for the season.

Scott Elbert

What went right: The left-hander was a valuable piece out of the bullpen for the second straight year, putting up similar numbers to his previous season.

In 2011, Elbert faced 139 batters, allowed 27 hits, walked 14, struck out 34, and put up a 2.43 ERA.

In 2012, Elbert faced 133 batters, allowed 27 hits, walked 13, struck out 29, and put up a 2.20 ERA.

Elbert was actually more effective against right-handed batters this season, holding them to a .170/.259/.255 line (8-for-47) with 18 strikeouts and six walks.

What went wrong: Elbert simply couldn't stay on the mound, as his elbow quit on him. He spent 22 games on the disabled list from July 26 to Aug. 19, and after a brief comeback was placed on the DL again on Aug. 29. Elbert had arthroscopic surgery to clean up scar tissue his left elbow on Sept. 19.

2013 status: The Dodgers said Elbert could resume throwing within six to eight weeks after his surgery, and the southpaw is expected to be ready by spring training. Elbert has two years, 69 days of service time and under team control for one more season before salary arbitration eligibility. He is out of options.

Javy Guerra

What went right: Guerra ended his season with 10 consecutive scoreless appearances, a run that included 13 strikeouts and five walks in 12⅓ innings. In the end, his 2012 season in many ways looked like his 2011:

In 2011, Guerra faced 195 batters, allowed 12 runs, two home runs, had 17 unintentional walks, and 38 strikeouts.

In 2012, Guerra faced 196 batters, allowed 13 runs, one home run, had 18 unintentional walks, and 37 strikeouts.

What went wrong: After blowing three saves, suffering another loss, and allowing the go-ahead run in the ninth inning in an 18-game span, Guerra lost his job as closer on May 6. He also took a line drive off his face on Apr. 25 against the Braves, one that caused him to contort while trying to get out of the way and led to a right knee injury. Guerra missed a month from June 3 to July 5 after arthroscopic knee surgery. After walking two batters against the Braves on Aug. 18, Guerra was optioned to Triple A three days later. After returning on Sept. 1 when rosters expanded, Guerra pitched in just one game before getting shut down with a left oblique strain.

2013 status: Guerra has one year, 137 days of major league service time and is under team control for at least one more season, possibly two unless he qualifies for Super Two status after 2013. Because Guerra was optioned for less than 20 days in 2012 (from Aug. 21-31, a total of 11 days), his option doesn't count. He has one option remaining.

Randy Choate

What went right: Choate was a true LOOGY for the Dodgers, and held opposing left-handed batters to a .171/.300/.268 line (7-for-40) after coming to the Dodgers with Hanley Ramirez from Miami on July 25. Choate was ready to pitch nearly every day, and for a while he did. Choate appeared in seven consecutive games from Sept. 9-16 and pitched 15 times in a 17-game stretch during the season's final month. Choate pitched in 36 of 64 games with the Dodgers, a 91-game pace over a full season. Though he was trailed closely during that span by full-inning artists Wright (33 games) and Belisario (32 games) during that span.

What went wrong: It's nearly impossible to completely avoid having a lefty specialist face right-handed batters, and the 13 righties that Choate faced made him pay to the tune of 6-for-10 with three walks.

2013 staus: Choate is a free agent.

Brandon League

What went right: League allowed just one run in his final 21 games, with 22 strikeouts and eight unintentional walks during that span in 22⅓ innings. League took over closer in September when Jansen was on the shelf, and allowed two hits, two walks, and no runs in his six save chances, all successful.

What went wrong: Right after his July 30 acquisition from the Mariners, League pitched for the Dodgers like he did while losing the closer's role earlier in the season in Seattle. He allowed runs in four of his first seven appearances, with five runs on nine hits in six innings, with a .462 opponent's on-base percentage.

2013 status: League is the one of the Dodgers' seven free agents most coveted by Colletti, though things could get expensive with League's strong end to the season. League made $5 million in 2012, his final year of salary arbitration.

Shawn Tolleson

What went right: Tolleson, who began the 2011 season at low Class A Great Lakes, continued his meteoric rise through the Dodgers farm system, which culminated in him striking out nearly a quarter of the batters he faced in the major leagues in 2012 (39 of 160, 24.4%).

What went wrong: Tolleson also walked 12.5% of the hitters he faced, 4.78 per nine innings, but nothing out of line for a first taste of the major leagues. Things went wrong for other players, as each of the three times Tolleson was optioned he was back within a couple of days due to an injury to another player:

On July 2, Tolleson was optioned to make room for Luis Cruz. The next day, Todd Coffey went on the disabled list with a torn ulnar collateral ligament and Tolleson was back.

On July 25, Tolleson was optioned to make room for Choate. The next day, Tolleson was back after Adam Kennedy went on the DL with a right groin strain.

On Aug. 27, Tolleson was optioned to make room for Josh Wall. Two days later, Elbert hit the DL with left elbow inflammation and Tolleson was back again.

2013 status: Tolleson has 122 days of service time, meaning he likely has three more years of team control left before salary arbitration eligibility. He has three option years remaining.

Todd Coffey

What went right: The burly right-hander pitched a scoreless June, as he allowed just two hits and two walks in 8⅔ innings during the month, with seven strikeouts.

What went wrong: Coffey was sidelined with right knee inflammation in April, though at the time it was an injury of convenience as he allowed six of his first nine hitters faced to reach base, and four runs to score in his first three games. Then, after finally finding his groove in June, Coffey tore a ligament in his right elbow in his first outing of July, which required Tommy John surgery. Also, maybe Coffey should be more careful about sharing his phone, or something.

2013 status: Coffey has a $2.5 million club option for 2013 that will almost certainly be declined, as he won't be available to pitch until July or August. His buyout is $300,000.

Matt Guerrier

What went right: Guerrier began his season with five straight scoreless appearances and ended it by allowing one run in his final six games. He put up a 1.071 WHIP that was the third best of his career, albeit in limited action. He had a Doc Brown quote on the whiteboard above his locker ("Where we're going, we don't need roads.") for most of the season.

What went wrong: Guerrier allowed three home runs in just 14 innings after he allowed only four in 66⅓ innings in 2011. He was sidelined for 4½ months and missed 133 games with right elbow tendinitis. After pitching in 70 games for five straight seasons, Guerrier pitched in just 16 games for the Dodgers in 2012, and nine different relievers on the team threw more innings.

2013 status: Guerrier will make $4.75 million next year in the final season of a three-year deal, which includes a $3.75 million salary and $1 million of his signing bonus that was deferred.

Paco Rodriguez

What went right: Rodriguez was the first 2012 draftee to make the majors, as the Dodgers' second rounder made his MLB debut on Sept. 9 against the Giants in San Francisco. With Elbert sidelined, Rodriguez gave the Dodgers a second southpaw in the pen and held left-handed batters to just two singles and a walk in 15 plate appearances. Rodriguez stranded 11 of his 12 inherited runners.

What went wrong: He walked four of the 26 batters he faced, though one was intentional. He suffered the loss, his only major league decision, on Sept. 13 against the Cardinals, though that was the only run he allowed in 11 appearances.

2013 status: Rodriguez, who has 29 days of major league service time, has at least three more years of team control, as well as three options remaining.

Josh Wall

What went right: Two years after getting demoted to low Class A Great Lakes as a starter, Wall continued his transformation into relief, and made his major league debut on July 22 against the Mets. Wall earned the win in that game by pitching a scoreless 11th inning. Wall also saved 28 games in Triple A Albuquerque.

What went wrong: Allowed three runs in mop-up relief in Colorado on Aug. 27.

2013 status: Wall has 47 days of service time, and two options remaining.

John Ely

What went right: In Triple A, just about everything went right for Ely, who was named the Pacific Coast League pitcher of the year after winning the pitching triple crown for Albuquerque, going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA and 165 strikeouts.

What went wrong: The 26-year old was called up for depth on Sept. 1, but only pitched in two games, both in relief. Ely allowed three runs in each game, giving him an 0-2 major league record and 20.25 ERA on the season. Since opening his major league career 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA in his first seven starts, Ely is 1-11 with a 7.79 ERA, with 43 walks, 55 strikeouts, and 14 home runs allowed in 69⅓ innings.

2013 status: Ely has 168 days of service time and one option year remaining. But depending on whom the Dodgers might add this winter, Ely's time on the 40-man might be short lived.

Michael Antonini

What went right: The left-handed Antonini got called up to the big leagues for the first time on Apr. 24, one of two major league stints for Antonini in 2012.

What went wrong: Despite accruing all of four days of service time, Antonini didn't get to pitch in any of the four games that he suited up for the Dodgers. He was designated for assignment on July 31 to make room on the 40-man roster for Shane Victorino. Antonini, who turned 27 in August, was outrighted to Triple A Albuquerque on Aug. 4, and allowed 12 runs and 18 hits in 9⅓ innings in five games with the Isotopes.

2013 status: Antonini was drafted in 2007 so he should have one more year before being eligible for minor league free agency. Unless he is added back to the 40-man roster in November, Antonini will be eligible to be taken in the Rule 5 draft at the winter meetings in December.

Josh Lindblom

What went right: Lindblom was shaping up to be one of the great stories of the Dodgers' season, as he built on his 2011 debut with a solid spring training in 2012. Lindblom made the opening day roster thanks to Ted Lilly starting the season on the disabled list, but Lindblom kept pitching his way into bigger roles on the team. He went from pitching two scoreless innings in relief of a sick Clayton Kershaw on opening day to the eighth inning setting up Jansen by early May.

What went wrong: Through the end of July the Dodgers bullpen had allowed 23 home runs, and Lindblom allowed nine of them. He suffered losses in consecutive outings over a four-day span from June 21-24, allowing five runs during that span.

2013 status: City of brotherly love; Lindblom was traded along with Ethan Martin and player to be named later Stefan Jarrin on July 31 to the Phillies for Shane Victorino.

Rubby De La Rosa

What went right: De La Rosa made it back to the majors in just over a year after his Tommy John surgery, pitching for the Dodgers on Aug. 22.

What went wrong: De La Rosa walked two batters in that outing, his only major league appearance in 2012.

2013 status: Beantown; De La Rosa was a player to be named later in the nine-player, Aug. 25 deal with the Red Sox that netted the Dodgers a Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford, and Nick Punto. De La Rosa officially went to Boston on Oct. 4.

Mike MacDougal

What went right: MacDougal provided a perfect lesson in sunk cost, as he was designated for assignment on May 3 after just seven games pitched.

What went wrong: He allowed 15 baserunners (nine hits, six walks) and five runs while recording just 17 outs with the Dodgers, then put up a 6.52 ERA with 24 walks in 29 innings in Triple A in the Cubs and Nationals systems.

2013 status: Free agent; the Dodgers ate the remainder of his $650,000 salary and his $350,000 2013 option buyout.