Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dodger 'Pen Looking Ugly

Too bad Jansen can't come out of the
bullpen for every out.
(photo courtesy LA Times)
Seven games into the 2016 season, and the Dodger bullpen looks ugly. Really ugly. The only reliever the team can count on is closer Kenley Jansen, who is his usual un-hittable self with two saves in two chances. The entire rest of the 'pen came ripping apart in the San Francisco series, giving management a very disturbing preview of what could be lurking down there this season.

After a season-opening three-game sweep of the Padres where the Dodger bullpen wasn't needed much, you knew its first real test would be against the Giants. Besides the third game of the series, which saw some decent late work from Chris Hatcher (more of an escape-act) and Jansen slamming the door, the relief corps couldn't have looked more inept. Smells a lot like last season. Here we go again. 

This look was all-too familiar
last season from Baez.
(photo courtesy Dodgers Nation)
This is what it looks like when you
can't get anybody out.
(photo courtesy MLB)
With the Dodgers leading 4-3 in the sixth inning of game one, Yimi Garcia relieved starter Alex Wood, who put the first two runners on base. Wood probably should have been pulled before the inning started, but the job description of a reliever is to shut that damn door or, at the very least, limit the damage. However, much like last season, Garcia could not get the job done, allowing three singles and four runs to score. After the Dodger offense worked to get two of those runs back and close the gap to 7-6, J.P. Howell couldn't retire any of the four batters he faced in the eighth, launching a string of failure for Howell, who ended up facing six batters in the series, only to watch them ALL get hits (his ERA is a grotesque 54.00) As if things couldn't get worse, Pedro Baez came in for Howell, and just like he did so many times last season, gave up the killer hit--a grand slam to Hunter Pence, putting the game out of reach.

Hatcher's meltdown took the cake.
(photo courtesy OC Register)
Thanks to Hatcher, the huge failures of Garcia, Baez, and Howell probably won't be remembered by most people. That's because he was the architect of one of the worst moments in recent Dodger memory. Rookie Ross Stripling, making his MLB pitching debut, had a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings, before manager Dave Roberts pulled him. I don't blame Roberts--he made the right call, Stripling, a recent survivor of Tommy John surgery, looked totally gassed when he walked Angel Pagan on his 100th pitch. So here comes Hatcher, your top guy outside of Jansen. This guy is paid to save the day, especially on a weak-hitting rookie catcher like Trevor Brown. Bam! Two-run home run, and just like that Stripling's no-no is gone and the game is tied. About as ugly as it gets, right? But wait, there's more. In the bottom of the 10th, journeyman Joe Blanton takes the mound, and one pitch later, Brandon Crawford is circling the bases with a walk-off home run. I think I'm going to be sick. Again.

Now what, Honeycutt?
(photo courtesy LA Times)
The Dodger bullpen is pretty much the only part of team that left spring training unscathed by injury. Upper management was so busy adjusting the roster for each of the 10 injuries that occurred everywhere else on the field that they never answered the questions that were all over the bullpen. Now this squeaky wheel is about to fall off, and it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the front office does (they really got caught with their pants down in San Francisco). One thing is for sure, the experiment of Howell being the only lefty in the bullpen has to end right now. Luis Avilan or Adam Liberatore can probably at least get one out. Rick Honeycutt has yet some work to do with Baez and Garcia. And a shrink may be in order for Hatcher to help him get over what he did to poor Stripling.

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