When the Dodgers first started their offseason, one of their biggest goals was strengthening their bullpen. General Manager Ned Colletti brought in strong bullpen depth reinforcements in Chris Perez and Jamey Wright, while also resigning key relievers Brian Wilson and J.P. Howell. Perez and Wright were signed to one year deals, Wilson was also signed to a one year deal, but with an option for 2015. Howell signed the biggest contract extension out of the two by signing a 2 year deal. Perez and Wright joined the returning relievers Kenley Jansen, Wilson, Howell, Chris Withrow and Brandon League.
This is Perez’s first season with the Dodgers after pitching most of his career as a closer with the Cardinals and Indians, but struggled last year as closer with the Indians. So for the Dodgers to sign Perez to a one year deal for cheap was a big win because it just adds more experience to our bullpen. To have Perez as our 7th inning man has been great because having him shut the down the 7th inning sets up for Wilson to come in the 8th inning and keep the momentum, but that plan hit a big road bump early this season as Wilson was struggling and had to go to the disabled list. When Wilson returned he was still off, but I have confidence that Wilson will bounce back as he continues to pitch more.
Jansen is one of the two pitchers that has not struggled in the bullpen with the other pitcher being League. They have been remarkable bullpen arms this year, especially League. League signed a three-year extension last year, but tried to do too much in his first season of the contract and Dodgers fans have calling for him to get traded, but I still had faith in League. I knew what kind of stuff he pitches, I mean he showed when he first arrived in LA at the trade deadline and took over the closer role at the end of the season when Jansen was put on the DL. I knew League was going to bounce back. Every pitcher does. It make take a few games to a few months to even a full season, but they always bounce back. League proved it. League wants to give back to the fans, despite pitching terrible last season. He was not ready to give up.
Wright returned to the Dodgers after spending last season with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he had his best season in a long time. Wright seemed to get better with age, which is very rare to see from aging pitchers because usually they start to decline. Wright’s season in Tampa is what earned Wright’s first major league contract in a long time. Wright’s return to LA, I believe down the line will pay off because Wright is simply reliable. Now, Wright this season has been having some bad luck as he gets thrusted into complicated situations where the Dodgers lose the game, but good for manager Don Mattingly to continue using him because he usually bounces back the next day with two scoreless innings. As the season goes on, Wright will still get his number called and will be a key piece in the bullpen.
Withrow and League have been dominating this season, but there are times where he has had scares, but that is a part of the game. Props to the young reliever for bouncing back after those scares. Withrow has been so effective that he has basically earned a spot in the bullpen, unlike Paco Rodriguez, who was thought to have earned the right to stay in the big leagues, but got sent down to Triple-A. Dodgers management sent him down because he simply had options and that is what made him the choice to send down in favor of another player. League, on the other hand has been a pleasant surprise for most Dodgers fans, it is great to see to League bounce back from a terrible year. With Paco’s departure, Howell is the only left-handed reliever in the bullpen, but that situation should change soon as Hyun-jin Ryu should returning from the DL soon. Temporary starter, Paul Maholm, is expected to join Howell in the bullpen.
The Dodgers have a really good bullpen, but right now it is going through a big slump, but I prefer the bullpen to go through a slump early in the season, instead of late in the season close to playoffs because you don’t want that slump affecting your chances in the playoffs. Give the bullpen a chance to recover and they will be on their way to become the best bullpen in the majors. It just takes time. It’s a long season. Dodgers fans be patient and be confident that bullpen will just get better. There is no need to talk trash about the bullpen because that is not going to do anything, but drive their morale down. So Dodgers fans, like I said in the post I wrote about League a couple of weeks back, stand by your team and be confident and support your team in every game they play. The more you root for the Dodgers, the more motivated the players will be and will want to play for their fans and bring an overdue championship for the first time since 1988. Let’s go Dodgers!!!