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Caleb Ferguson is pitching himself into bigger role in the bullpen

Roberts likes his ability to get both righties and lefties out in high-leveraged situations

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Los Angeles Dodgers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Since Caleb Ferguson became a professional baseball player, he has primarily been a starting pitcher. In fact, outside of his stints in the Arizona League, Ferguson had started 46 out of 47 games he had appeared in from 2016 through this season.

Ferguson’s first three games with the Dodgers were as a starter but after that, he has made nine relief appearances. In his 21 innings pitched as a reliever, Ferguson has given up four runs (three earned) and 14 hits. He has struck out 27 and walked only two.

Manager Dave Roberts said that the team still sees Ferguson as a starting pitcher but for this season, he will be pitching out of the bullpen.

“Caleb has put himself in more of a leveraged, as a leveraged piece for our guys in the pen,” Roberts said. “We still see him as a starter going forward but for 2018, in the pen, to go multiples but also I like him against lefties and righties in leverage.”

With his 2018 role defined, Ferguson feels more comfortable as the Dodgers head toward the last two months of the regular season and hopefully, the postseason.

“Now knowing kind of what my role is and being ready to pitch everyday versus every three or four days,” Ferguson said, “it’s a lot better feeling knowing you are going to have a chance to pitch every day.”

Ferguson has had at least two full days off between relief appearances. The Dodgers will use the rest of this season to try and get him available more frequently.

“So now the challenge is how do we use him and be able to call upon him more frequently,” Roberts said. “The three-inning stints, I probably don’t see them happening anymore for Caleb, because that calls for more, three off-days.”

“His ability to get a good part of the lineup out, to have him pitch more frequently probably makes more sense, so one to two innings stints probably more likely.”

Ferguson’s game preparation took a step up this season as he began to incorporate statistical breakdowns into his prep. He said this was a change from prior seasons when he he hadn’t taken advantage of that research.

“It really took off this year, is whenever I took the step to try to find research like that on my own,” Ferguson said. “This year I really took the step ahead and every start I would break down a lineup, couple a days before, kind of gear all my work that I did before my start towards that. I would say this year I really took a big step toward that.”

A starting pitcher will likely have a broader pitch mix than a reliever, Ferguson is primarily a two-pitch reliever but he doesn’t want to use his feel for a pitch he spent a lot of time working on.

“I am mainly fastball, curveball now,” Ferguson said. “I throw a changeup occasionally here and there. I still throw my changeup during catch everyday, it is not something I want to lose. I have worked like three years now just to figure out how to throw a changeup, now I finally got it.”

“I’ve thrown [a changeup] a couple of times in a game, I still throw it every day in catch but for the most part, I think am fastball, curveball out of the bullpen, my two best pitches. I know I can execute those two more than I can execute the changeup.”

Ferguson is looking forward to being a part of this year’s bullpen as they get ready to try and win a sixth straight NL West title.

“I feel great, we’re pushing for a playoff spot,” Ferguson said. “It is going to be a race all the way up until the end with us and the D-backs.”

“It’s going to be fun. When your name is called upon, you got to go do your job and rely on the eight other guys that they’re going to do theirs as well. It is definitely going to be fun and I feel great.”

Updates on Ryu and Urias

On Sunday morning, Roberts gave updates for both Hyun-jin Ryu and Julio Urias.

“Hyun-jin is going to make a start for the Tulsa club and they are going to be at Corpus Christi,” Roberts said. “I don’t know if it is Tuesday or Wednesday, he is going to be five [innings] and 75 [pitches] at that point in time.”

“And then you are looking at five or six days after that to make the next start and we have not decided where that will be yet.”

Roberts had said when Ryu started his rehab that it would take four starts to build him up, Roberts said today the Dodgers want to remain flexible in their plans.

“We want to keep the options open,” Roberts said. “But ideally, yeah you still want to build him up to six and 90 to be ready to get through a major league start and not abbreviate it. So I don’t want to put it in stone, right now we are kind of taking it start by start so it will be that Tuesday or Wednesday with Tulsa.”

Julio Urias made two rehab appearances last week in Arizona, the second on Saturday night where he pitched 1⅔ innings, striking out four.

“Julio from what I understand, pitched really well,” Roberts said. “I did not look at the velocities, I’m assuming it was [91 to 93] with the fastball. From what I heard, he pitched really well.”

Roberts added the Dodgers will continue to build up Urias and then decide what to do next.

“I think the plan is to build him up to three to four innings,” Roberts said. “And at that point in time, make a decision on how we plan to use him up here.”