Among the various transactions that might have slipped under the radar over the Christmas/New Year break included former Dodgers relief pitcher Justin Bruihl finding a new home in Cincinnati. The Reds signed the left-hander to a minor league contract on January 3 that includes a non-roster invitation to spring training.
Bruihl’s time with the Dodgers ended on August 1, when he was traded to the Rockies for cash considerations, part of the roster casualties that came with the Dodgers’ four deadline trades.
It was quite a run with Los Angeles for Bruihl, who was a non-drafted free agent signee in 2017 out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He ended up pitching or playing in more games for the Dodgers than anyone the team drafted that year.
Bruihl endured the back-and-forth between the Dodgers and Triple-A Oklahoma City, optioned a total of nine times over the last two seasons. He made his major league debut on August 8 2021 – and worked his way out of two runners in scoring position with one out against the Angels – and then made the postseason roster for a 106-win team.
Bruihl pitched in three games against Atlanta in the NLCS, totaling two scoreless innings and struck out five of his seven batters faced. He struck out Freddie Freeman and even whiffed Eddie Rosario twice, the latter seemingly impossible as Rosario at the time was the hottest hitter on the planet.
The 71.4-percent strikeout rate by Bruihl is the second-best in Dodgers postseason history, trailing only Yimi García, who pitched once in October 2015.
The three-batter minimum has made life rough on some left-handers, all but eliminating the LOOGY role in recent years. It would have been an ideal use for Bruihl, who has limited left-handers to a .480 OPS during hit three years in the majors compared to an .895 OPS for right-handers against him.
But Bruihl persevered, with a 4.22 ERA and 102 ERA+ in the majors, including a 3.65 ERA and 117 ERA+ in his 65 games and 66⅔ innings with the Dodgers.
Now Bruihl has a chance to have a good year if he can win a job with the Reds in Goodyear during spring training. Should the left-hander make it back to the majors, Bruihl does have one option year remaining, giving Cincinnati the roster flexibility to use him as needed throughout the year.