GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yimi Garcia and Paco Rodriguez were the latest to stake their claim to one of the many open spots in the Dodgers bullpen, each pitching strong outings on Sunday in a 4-2 loss to the Indians at Camelback Ranch.
The Dodgers new front office has amassed quite a bit of pitching depth, and the resulting competition of 16 players for seven spots — or 14 for five spots, 13 for four, depending on how many roster locks you might think there are — has brought out the best in several relief pitchers this spring.
David Huff got things started for the Dodgers with three scoreless innings of his own in a spot start in place of the sidelined Hyun-Jin Ryu. a Huff has only allowed one run all spring and has pitched in multiple innings in all four of his Cactus League outings, with his shortest appearance at 1⅔ innings. Huff is essentially battling Chad Gaudin for the long reliever and occasional spot starter role, should the Dodgers decide to go that route.
Both Garcia and Rodriguez have options, and saw significant time in Triple-A Albuquerque last season because of it. There is still a chance one or both end up opening their age-24 seasons this year in Oklahoma City, but it's hard to come up with a "best seven" relief pitchers — a mantra repeated by manager Don Mattingly several times over the last few weeks — on the Dodgers right now without including both of them.
Rodriguez pitched a perfect sixth inning on Sunday with a strikeout, his sixth scoreless appearance of the spring. He has retired 18 of 21 hitters in the Cactus League, with seven strikeouts and no walks. He's looking a lot like the Rodriguez who was a trusted setup man for Mattingly in 2013, putting up a 2.32 ERA and a 30-percent strikeout rate in 76 games.
"We think he's been good in camp," manager Don Mattingly said. "It's a lot more like we were seeing a couple years back, the sharpness on the edges with the breaking ball."
Garcia escaped an inherited jam in the seventh inning and pitched a scoreless eighth as well. He allowed three hits on Sunday, one more base runner than in his previous five outings combined, but also got four of his five outs by strikeout. Garcia has retired 22 of 27 hitters this spring, with nine strikeouts and one walk.
"Yimi looked good," Mattingly said. "He has looked good all camp."
The Dodgers will have some tough decisions to make regarding their bullpen in the next two weeks. But competition is bringing out the best in several candidates, which has been quite a relief.
The Dodgers host the Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch on Monday. The club will turn to 2013 first-round pick Chris Anderson to start, while Brandon McCarthy starts in a minor league game against the Reds on the back fields to work on things. Daniel Hudson starts for Arizona.