Stephen Fife on Saturday pitched in a new role, as the right-hander threw 2⅓ innings of relief for Triple-A Albuquerque. The Dodgers say the move to the bullpen is only temporary, allowing the club to keep its options open for the stretch run.
"Rick (Honeycutt, pitching coach) set up a schedule for him to pitch out of the bullpen a couple of times. The thinking is if we would start him then something would happen the next day, he's four days away," manager Don Mattingly said on Sunday. "We keep him on a schedule where he gets a couple innings in, just for a couple of times, to keep him fresh so his arm stays good, then we'll start him again."
Fife is 4-3 with a 2.47 ERA in nine starts for the Dodgers this season, with 40 strikeouts against just 12 unintentional walks in 51 innings. Saturday night was just Fife's third relief appearance since the start of the 2009 season. He threw 47 pitches.
The Dodgers have no plans to make any rotation changes soon, but are keeping Fife in essence on call as the emergency sixth starter, and pitching him in relief allows some flexibility depending on if or when a rotation need may arise.
After Thursday's off day, the Dodgers play 13 games in 13 days, and Mattingly might use Fife as an option to start around that time, if only to give the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest. The move also gives the Dodgers options in September, too.
"We know who he is. We know he can pitch. Also we're thinking getting into September he may not be starting and could come out of the pen," Mattingly said. "We want to make sure he has some type of experience warming up and coming into a game."