It’s almost time for the Dodgers to construct the bullpen for opening day. With just a week remaining until the regular season kicks off, the Dodgers have to make the annual roster decisions. With the all of the injuries and focus on the starting rotation, few people have been looking at the bullpen. We all know that the bullpen has been a weakness for the Dodgers for the last several years now. In particular left handed middle relief.
The Dodgers do have J.P. Howell, who is sure to act as the Dodgers primary loogy once again. He’s been solid as usual this spring. After Howell the options are few if any. Luis Avilan is still with the club. He hasn’t pitched very well this spring. His pitches have looked flat, and he’s struggled with his command. He’ll throw one good pitch during an at-bat and then hang a meatball down the pipe. He’s looked very average and hittable.
The 26-year old southpaw was acquired by the Dodgers from the Braves last summer during the three team deal with the Marlins that sent Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, Bronson Arroyo, Jose Peraza, Mike Morse and Mat Latos to the club. Avilan has allowed six earned runs on ten hits over 5.1 innings pitched in seven appearances this spring.
So what do the Dodgers do if something happens to Avilan, or he keeps sucking? They could go with Adam Liberatore. The 28-year old has pitched much better this spring, but had an up and down season with the Dodgers in 2015. Liberatore was acquired from the Rays in the Jose Dominguez trade. Liberatore appeared in 39 games for the Dodgers in 2015, and posted a 4.25 ERA. Although advanced metrics like FIP liked his body of work much better. Liberatore had a 3.40 FIP, and a strikeout to walk ratio of over 3-1. He struck out 29 and walked only 9 and usually kept the ball in the park. This year Liberatore has appeared in 10 exhibition games, and posted a 3.00 ERA. In 9 frames he’s allowed three earned runs on eight hits and struck out 11 against just three walks.
After Libertore the depth gets spotty. There’s nobody behind Liberatore and Avilan. I guess there is Ian Thomas, but ughhh no thanks. We’ve seen enough of him. The Dodgers were pretty good against left handed hitters last season. They allowed left handers to hit .251 against them with a 3.38 ERA. That ranked them fifth in the majors, thanks to solid work from Howell and Liberatore. This spring Dodger hurlers have limited opposing southpaw batters. They’ve posted a 3.34 ERA in 91.2 Cactus League innings pitched.
Not bad for exhibition play. I still think the Dodgers are thin on left handed relievers. Once again the club may become outmatched in the late innings if they have nobody to call on and can’t get tough left handed hitters out. Pray nothing happens to Howell. The Dodgers may have to pick up somebody at the trade deadline. Maybe they can even work out a deal before then.