Before each of the first two games of their series in San Diego, the Dodgers added a pitcher to their bullpen who might help them in the postseason. David Price was activated off the injured list on Tuesday and Yency Almonte was activated off the IL on Wednesday, ending long stints on the shelf for both.
Price didn’t pitch in either of the first two games at Petco Park, but he was active for the first time since September 3, having missed 22 games with left wrist inflammation. Almonte was gone even longer, out for 46 games with right elbow tightness.
Before Wednesday’s game, Almonte was interviewed by Kirsten Watson of SportsNet LA and others, talking about his road back to the roster, which included three games last week on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“After my second outing in my rehab stint was where I felt like I had my stuff pretty much they way I had it before I got hurt,” Almonte told Watson. “That’s when I felt more confident, I was able to let it go, trust my pitches.”
Almonte’s last appearance with the Dodgers was August 3 before he was called in to face the top of San Diego’s lineup in a tie game in the eighth inning on Wednesday. Almonte showed no rust, inducing two groundouts — one by Juan Soto — and striking out Manny Machado. The sinker/slider artist lowered his ERA on the season to a paltry 1.11.
Almonte especially adds another layer to the Dodgers’ multi-pronged high-leverage mix in a post-Kimbrel bullpen, giving them at least six pitchers — right-handers Evan Phillips, Chris Martin, Tommy Kahnle, and Almonte, plus left-handers Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson — they feel comfortable using in almost any situation.
Another potential member of that group is Brusdar Graterol, who’s pitched twice since his return from missing three weeks with right elbow inflammation. Graterol will serve as the opener for the series finale on Thursday night in front of Andrew Heaney, serving as a likely preview of Dodgers playoff games not started by Julio Urías or Clayton Kershaw.
To make room for Price and Almonte, the Dodgers on Tuesday optioned Andre Jackson to Triple-A, presumably carried away like a hero on the shoulders of teammates after his three-inning save on Sunday. On Wednesday, Phil Bickford landed on the injured list with right shoulder fatigue. Given the timing, just like with Dustin May, this move ends Bickford’s regular season.
Bickford on Monday was tied for the team lead with 60 appearances this year, since passed by Phillips and Vesia. Bickford had a 4.72 ERA and 3.47 xERA in 61 innings, with 67 strikeouts against 14 walks. Bickford was done in this year by the long ball, his 12 home runs allowed double the next-highest total among Dodgers relievers (Price).