How the Dodgers use their bullpen this season will be something to watch all year, because they go into the season without a designated closer for the first time in over a decade.
With Blake Treinen set to miss most if not all of the 2023 season after shoulder surgery, and Daniel Hudson unlikely to be ready until later in April, the Dodgers with the most experience in saving games are sidelined. But while the Dodgers may not have designated a set closer, they should have a number of high-quality arms to use in important situations late in games.
It was this way late last season, leading up to and after when Craig Kimbrel was removed from the closer role. The Dodgers’ final nine saves of 2022, over the final five-plus weeks of the season, were recorded by eight different pitchers.
One of those high-quality arms is Evan Phillips, who has a 1.47 ERA and 2.11 FIP in 71 games since getting claimed by the Dodgers off waivers in August 2021. He’ll be called on by manager Dave Roberts pitching high-leverage innings, which sometimes will come in the ninth inning with the lead, as Bill Plunkett in the Orange County Register outlined in his overview of the Dodgers bullpen:
“Evan is extremely critical because of his ability to get right and left(-handed hitters) out, his openness and willingness to pitch any time we ask him to pitch, his comfort level to finish a game, his comfort level to come into an inning,” Roberts said. “All that stuff makes him extremely valuable for how I want to manage the ‘pen.”
Miguel Vargas has four hits in nine at-bats and has doubled in each of the three games in which he’s been allowed to swing. But it was his four walks in 12 plate appearances when watching every pitch that led Zach Crizer at Yahoo Sports to dig into the data, which suggest more major league hitters should swing less.
After Julio Urías pitched five innings for Mexico in the World Baseball Classic on Saturday, Jorge Castillo at the Los Angeles Times had this takeaway from the game:
Most importantly, the Dodgers’ de facto ace emerged healthy after unloading 62 pitches at max effort three weeks earlier than usual.
“He was looking really good,” Barnes said. “But that’s baseball. A couple of swings can change the game, but his stuff looked really good.”
J.J. Cooper at Baseball America wrote thoughtfully about how prospect coverage over the years has focused heavily on player’s ceiling and floor. “The mass of careers will unfold in between the perceived floor and ceiling, meaning it’s better to think in terms of high-variance versus low-variance prospects,” Cooper wrote.
Old friend Keibert Ruiz, who was traded by the Dodgers to the Nationals in July 2021 in the Max Scherzer/Trea Turner deal, signed an eight-year contract extension through 2030 that also includes club options for 2031 and 2032. Andrew Golden and Barry Svrluga at The Washington Post has more on the $50-million pact.
Old friend Eddy Alvarez, the two-time Olympic medalist, showed off his speed-skating skills with his new Brewers teammates this week. Enjoy:
Eddy Alvarez:— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 10, 2023
✅ 2X Olympic silver medalist (Speed skating, baseball)
✅ Nailed a clubhouse sprint pic.twitter.com/LROMAPQH5c