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2023 Dodgers in review: Phil Bickford

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Most people tend to forget that Phil Bickford was a top-ten, first-round draft pick in 2013 (Toronto) before finally being drafted by the Giants again in the first round in 2015.

In 2022, I documented that Bickford was a top-shelf reliever when I was in attendance and thoroughly average when I was not. 2023 was more of the same from Bickford.

Since joining the Dodgers in the 2021 season, Bickford has been a constant presence in the bullpen. Sometimes, he had worked himself into high-leverage situations. Sometimes, he was relegated to mop-up duty.

Such was the case with Bickford in 2023, as he started the year with the major league team appearing in high-leverage situations for the first month of the season before being delegated to mid- and low-leverage appearances as the year went on, especially after a disastrous four-run, one-out appearance in Milwaukee on May.

If Bickford had a failing in 2023, it was his penchant for giving up free passes and a shortage of scoreless outings. as Bickford allowed runs in 12 of his 26 outings with the Dodgers.

But even when he was wild, Bickford never gave up, even when the Dodgers had no other options. The most famous example of this scenario was on May 15 when a taxed Dodgers’ bullpen had no choice but to use Bickford to close out a game that would not end.

Aided by a generous strike zone, Bickford’s grit and endearing awkwardness in the postgame interview won him plaudits from the fanbase, united in appreciating Bickford after his marathon outing.

Bickford in Baltimore. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. July 19, 2023.
Bickford in Baltimore. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. July 19, 2023.
Michael Elizondo / True Blue LA

Bickford made seven appearances after the marathon outing and was clearly was affected by fatigue. In these outings, Bickford gave up 12 runs, including four home runs, in 7⅓ innings. On June 3, the Dodgers placed Bickford on the injured list with lower back tightness. Even with the ineffectiveness, Bickford had kept hitters at a slash line of .235/.339/.407 with the Dodgers for the year.

While on a rehab assignment, on July 29, the Dodgers designated Bickford for assignment and on August 1, the Dodgers traded Bickford and Adam Kolarek to the New York Mets for cash considerations.

While with the Mets, Bickford was primarily used in late innings and generally did alright by keeping batters at a slash line of .221/.339/.368 over 25⅓ innings with 28 strikeouts.

Bickford may be gone, but the memory of his wild hair, kind interactions with fans, or that time I confused Bickford for Sheehan in the hot New York summer, and earnest awkwardness with the media will linger for years to come.

2023 particulars

Age: 27

Stats: 2-3, 42 IP, 48 K, 26 BB, 5.14 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 1.524 WHIP with Dodgers

Salary: $740,000, of which the Dodgers paid about $497,312

Game of the year

On May 15, Bickford took the mound in a wobbly three-inning, four-walk performance, where he coughed up the go-ahead run in the 10th inning.

It did not matter, because on that night, Phil Bickford was that guy and just kept pitching, striking out four and earning his first win of the year.

And in true Bickford fashion, Joe Davis’ excellent call of Bickford’s final out is cut short by MLB Film Room.

Roster status

Bickford is on the Mets’ 40-man roster.