LOS ANGELES — Among the players signed to minor league contracts by the Dodgers so far this season, Jesen Therrien stands out as a longer-term option.
The right-handed pitcher made his major league debut for the Phillies on July 29. He got roughed up a little bit in his first big league stint, allowing 17 runs on 24 hits, including five home runs, in just 18⅓ innings. Therrien had Tommy John surgery in late September, and will likely miss all of the 2018 season.
The Dodgers signed the free agent to a two-year minor league contract throrugh 2019.
“The goal is to get Jesen ready for the 2019 season. We’re really excited about what he’s capable of doing,” said new Dodgers director of player development Brandon Gomes. “Now it’s just focusing on getting him as healthy and as strong as possible.”
Therrien posted a 1.41 in 39 minor league relief appearances in 2017, splitting time between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He struck out 65 and walked only nine in 57 innings, his walk rate improving from 11.3% in 2016 to 4.2% last year.
In the last three seasons combined, Therrien in the minors posted a 1.79 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 53 walks in 176 innings, a 27.5% strikeout rate.
Therrien threw mostly fastballs and sliders during his time in the majors (46% and 43% respectively, per Brooks Baseball). Then Phillies manager Pete Mackanin talked to Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer about Therrien in June:
"We loved him in spring. I loved his breaking ball," Mackanin said. "We really got excited about his breaking ball. He has a really nasty breaking ball. It's good to see. ... He's on the map for me based on what I saw in the spring. He came in, and threw strikes with a really good looking breaking ball. Especially out of the bullpen, if you have a really good breaking ball and you can command it, that's half the battle."
Therrien has been a ground ball pitcher for the bulk of his career, inducing a 48.5% ground ball rate in the majors in 2017 and a 52.5% rate from 2015-17 in the minors.
He was a teammate of current Dodgers catcher Kyle Farmer on the Glendale Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League in 2015.
Therrien grew up in Montreal and was a teammate with fellow Montreal native and former Dodgers Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne for Canada in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. But their relationship stretched back a few years, as noted in June by Tom Housenick of The Morning Call in Allentown, Penn.:
"He's really been a mentor for me," the 24-year-old Montreal native said. "After all of my outings, he'll call me or text me telling me what I did wrong, what I did good."
"He keeps it really simple," Therrien said. "I'm an aggressive pitcher. That's the way he used to be. They used to call him 'Game over,' because he was good but also because he was a strike thrower. I believe I am the same thing."