LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Monday recalled relief pitcher Jose Dominguez from Triple-A Albuquerque before the start of a four-game series against the Phillies, and optioned utility man Chone Figgins to Triple-A.
The move gives the Dodgers 13 pitchers and 12 position players, something needed after the bullpen threw 22⅓ innings in six games last week, exacerbated by a pair of 12-inning games. Kenley Jansen (13 games), J.P. Howell (11) and Chris Perez (11) are the top three in the major leagues in appearances this year, with no other pitcher appearing in more than 10 games.
Manager Don Mattingly said with Dominguez around as an extra arm, hopefully he can spread the innings around the bullpen a little more, even at the expense of now playing with a short bench of three position players and a backup catcher.
"We fought this last week when we optioned Paco Rodriguez in San Francisco. We didn't want to play short. But it seemed like every day we walking a tightrope with these guys in the bullpen," Mattingly said. "These next seven days we have to go nine innings every night."
The Dodgers don't have an off day this week, playing four games against the Phillies and three against the Rockies all at home. Mattingly said if the team makes it through the week with just 12 position players, the team might keep the same roster alignment for the three-game interleague series against the Twins in Minnesota (April 29 - May 1), because with pitchers not batting in those games he won't double switch often, if at all.
The identity of the extra pitcher may change, though. Because nobody is going on the disabled list, Rodriguez needs to stay on his optional assignment for at least 10 days. That means the earliest the left-hander could be recalled is Friday.
Dominguez, 23, has pitched in three games this season, allowing four runs on two hits and two walks in his three innings, with five strikeouts.
Figgins, 35, amazingly had two option years remaining, only using an option in 2003 with the Angels. But since Figgins has more than five years of service time — through Sunday he has nine years, 169 days; just three days shy of 10 full years — the collective bargaining agreement allows such a player the right to refuse any assignment to the minors.
But as part of his minor league contract, Figgins and the Dodgers agreed that the team could option him if needed. The 45-day clause was similarly used by the Mariners with Randy Wolf at the end of spring training, but he refused and became a free agent. Per the CBA:
Any Player who has a right to refuse the assignment of his contract under paragraph 2(a) above may grant consent to an assignment of his contract in advance of any specific contemplated assignment if such consent (a) is granted not more than ten (10) days prior to the start of the championship season for which the consent is given, (b) is in writing, (c) designates the assignee Club and (d) requires that the assignment take place within 45 days from the start of the championship season or the date on which the con- sent is granted, whichever is later. The Club shall provide a copy of the Player’s consent to the Association contemporaneously upon the Club’s receipt of such consent. No Club shall attempt to secure, by any Major League terms included in a Minor League Uniform Player Contract, an advance consent to an assignment to a Minor League club, and any consent so secured shall have no force or effect.
Figgins played in nine of the Dodgers' 19 games, but nearly exclusively as a pinch hitter, with only two outs played in left field.
"At the end of the day, I don't think it's going to be horrible for Figgins to go down and get 25-30 at-bats," Mattingly said. "We feel like he's been looking better and better. We're seeing more bat speed all the time."
Figgins was 1-for-6 with three walks in the early going.
Clayton Kershaw said he felt good one day after his 51-pitch simulated game, and will pitch a bullpen session on Tuesday. Neither Kershaw nor Mattingly would reveal the next step for the left-hander after the bullpen session, but it sounds like a minor league rehab assignment isn't far off. Kershaw was cryptic, saying only, "We've got a plan."
Mattingly was asked about the performance of Dodgers catchers Tim Federowicz (2-for-30) Drew Butera (2-for-14) so far in the absence of A.J. Ellis: "Obviously we'd like to get more. We've said before that we're worried about the game calling and that's the main thing. We know we're at with it. I think Fed's been a little bit better. I'm hoping that he kind of finds it a little bit. I know he's better than this."