Dave Roberts: Dodgers Without Clear Setup Man, Defined Roles In Bullpen
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond inheriting a club that faced lofty expectations, one of the challenges Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts faced in his rookie season as manager was an unstable bullpen. After weeks spent tinkering with options to little success, Roberts did way with set roles.

The exception remained Kenley Jansen as closer, though Roberts used Jansen more liberally and aggressively during the postseason. The unconventional approach proved beneficial for the Dodgers, as their bullpen statistically ranked among the best in the Majors.

Beyond Jansen, Pedro Baez, Joe Blanton, Louis Coleman, Grant Dayton and Adam Liberatore all went through stretches of dominance. Most of which were unexpected. Blanton remains a free agent and Coleman signed this offseason with the Cincinnati Reds.

The Dodgers’ bullpen otherwise remains largely intact. But how Roberts will deploy his relievers this season is not yet determined. “When you have a pitcher that can get righties and lefties out efficiently, and have a clear eighth-inning guy, then that makes sense,” Roberts said of establishing set roles.

“But if you don’t, you have to look at your roster and see what guys are best-suited to get certain hitters out. If that’s the way it’s going to be, our guys are completely on board with that. I think on paper, in theory, you’d like to have a dedicated eighth-inning guy. We didn’t have that last year, but if you look at the last four months, it worked out pretty well.”

Roberts added he does not see a clear setup man on the roster. That’s not to suggest there’s doubt over the group’s capabilities. “The arms are there, it’s just more of somebody has to emerge,” Roberts explained.

“Sort of what Joe Blanton did for us last year. When you look at Baez, Avilan, Liberatore, what Grant did last year for us, and you look at other arms that potentially might be out there, we have a lot of options. It’s more, who’s going to step up and pitch those innings.

“As we approach Spring Training and get through six weeks of camp, a lot will play itself out. We’ve got guys who really can do some things.”

Roberts’ comments were made prior to the club reportedly making significant progress on agreeing to terms with former San Francisco Giants closer Sergio Romo.

Also speaking during the Dodgers’ FanFest event at Dodger Stadium, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said the club was monitoring free-agent relief pitchers, including Blanton.