The Dodgers are going with Mitch White in a traditional starter’s role on Wednesday, a slight change from the original plan heading into this four-game series in St. Louis, and emblematic of how the Dodgers have filled innings however they can for over two months now.
White pitched six innings for Low-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday, so his regular rest day was today anyway. The team might have needed him to pitch in a bulk capacity on Tuesday, but Max Scherzer’s eight innings on Monday helped reset things in the bullpen, such that the Dodgers used nine short relievers to win Tuesday’s game.
“It was kind of a last-minute decision, talking through how we were going to navigate [Tuesday’s] game,” manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday. “Needing length [Wednesday], we felt using various arms [Tuesday] was the best way to go.”
This is White’s eighth different stint in the majors this season, pitching a variety of roles. The last two months have been more stretched out as a starter or in a bulk role, lasting at least into the fourth inning of his outing in 10 of his last 11 games between the majors and minors. With the Dodgers during that span, White has a 3.33 ERA in six games, with 27 strikeouts and nine walks in 24⅓ innings.
Twice so far on the road trip the Dodgers have used true bullpen games, something they’ve done three times in the last 16 games. They’ve also had 10 starts or bulk outings less then five innings in the last four weeks, meaning in 13 of their last 24 games they’ve used the bullpen very heavily.
That’s been consistent with how the pitching staff has operated since the beginning of July, with the only Walker Buehler, Julio Urías, and eventually Max Scherzer providing any consistent length. Other than that it’s been a scramble to fill innings, including the shuffling of pitchers in and out to get as many fresh arms as possible.
So far, it’s worked. Dodgers pitchers lead the majors in ERA (2.99) and FIP (3.58) on the season, and since July 1 they lead in ERA (2.69) and rank second in FIP (3.53).
“In a vacuum, it’s hard when you run through — I don’t know where we’re at as far as pitchers used,” Roberts said. [Editor’s note: the Dodgers have used 39 pitchers in 2021]. “If you look at the individual workload, it’s not what might be perceived, relative to the sum of bullpen innings.”
The Dodgers have 652 individual pitching appearances this season, meaning they’ve used an average of 4.69 pitchers per game, including starters. That’s the third-highest in MLB. But only four pitchers are in the top 150 in the majors in games pitched — Blake Treinen (62, tied for eighth), Kenley Jansen (56, tied for 50th), Phil Bickford (49*, tied for 103rd), and Victor Gonzalez (44, tied for 128th).
*Bickford’s total includes one game with the Brewers.
Heading into Wednesday, only two relievers on the active roster have pitched twice in the last three days — Joe Kelly and Shane Greene — and Jansen has had the last four days off. They’ve managed to find rest when they can.
“Everyone’s tired, from starters to guys in the pen, but I think we’ve managed each of these guys individually pretty well,” Roberts said.
Teams: Dodgers (88-51) at Cardinals (69-68)
Location: Busch Stadium, St. Louis
Time: 4:45 p.m.
TV: SportsNet LA