One month after being hired as the Los Angeles Dodgers’ president of of baseball operations, one of Andrew Friedman’s first moves was to go treasure hunting in his former organization, acquiring Joel Peralta and 27-year-old left-handed prospect Adam Liberatore from the Tampa Bay Rays.
While Peralta was expected to immediately help the Dodgers’ bullpen, it was Liberatore who looked like the key piece of the deal. After starting the 2015 season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, he made his Major League debut on April 17, pitching a perfect frame against the Colorado Rockies.
He allowed just two runs through May, showing the stuff and deception to get lefties and righties out.
However, as the season wore on, Liberatore began to struggle and was eventually optioned back to Oklahoma City. He returned to the Majors in September, pitching in just four games.
Despite the inconsistency, Liberatore looked like he’d contribute to the team once again in 2016. But after appearing in 10 games during Spring Training, he was optioned to Triple-A to start the year. He didn’t stay there long, joining the Dodgers one week into the season.
Liberatore hit the ground running, going 13 games without allowing a run. In fact, through his first 42 appearances, Liberatore sported a minuscule 0.55 ERA.
A pair of subpar outings at the end of July were a signal something was amiss with the left-hander, and he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with left elbow inflammation. Liberatore complete a rehab assignment and returned with the Dodgers in August.
But he was never the same, pitching to a 9.64 ERA in 14 games after coming off the DL. Even with that late-season meltdown, his season ERA was just 3.38.
The 29-year-old set a Dodgers franchise record with 28 consecutive scoreless appearances. Prior to that, Liberatore strung together 13 straight games without allowing a run. Despite the elbow injury, he appeared in a career-high 58 games.
Liberatore pitched exceptionally well for the Dodgers last season when he was healthy. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow in early October, and is expected to make a full recovery in time for 2017.
If he’s healthy, Liberatore should absolutely be on the Opening Day roster.
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