The Los Angeles Dodgers have enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2019 season, led by a powerful offense and solid starting pitching. A major drawback for manager Dave Roberts’ team, however, has been the bullpen, whose 4.62 ERA is eighth-highest in the Majors.
Kenley Jansen is arguably the greatest closer in Dodgers history and is in the middle of a 5-year, $80 million contract he signed before the 2017 season. However, he has continued to struggle after a down year in 2018, when he allowed 13 home runs and recorded a 3.01 ERA, both career highs.
Jansen has already given up four home runs and blown two saves, and recently sparked some headlines when he was seen disagreeing with his catchers while on the mound. His ERA has continued to rise, ballooning to 3.80 this season entering Friday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Pedro Baez, meanwhile, struggled early in the season before going a month without allowing a run. That streak ended on Tuesday, when Baez was hit in the leg by an RBI single and hobbled off the field. He has not pitched since, although Roberts raised the possibility that Baez could see the field at some point this weekend in Pittsburgh.
Scott Alexander went the opposite direction, enduring some rough outings over the past month after a dominant start to the 2019 season.
With Baez and Alexander unavailable Wednesday, the Dodgers watched one of their more consistent relievers, Dylan Floro, take the loss as the Tampa Bay Rays scored seven runs in the seventh inning after Floro entered in a 1-1 tie.
Despite yet another bullpen disappointment, Roberts remained optimistic about his team’s relief corps. He focused on the positives when speaking to the media after Wednesday’s game, as seen on SportsNetLA:
“I think it has been reliable at times. I think that each individual at times has thrown the ball really well. Right now, working from the back I think we’re getting [Kenley Jansen] back on line and I think [Pedo Baez] is throwing the ball really well, it was unfortunate with yesterday, [Scott Alexander] really trying to get that sinker down. So just all of our guys I think that they just haven’t hit their stride. So it’s kind of what I see as opposed to the numbers and guys I still trust and we’re going to need them.”
Other relievers expected to be key contributors in 2019 have not panned out. Joe Kelly has struggled mightily during his time as a Dodger, and Roberts has used him increasingly sparingly in recent weeks. Kelly was signed to a three-year, $25 million contract in December with the expectation that he would be Jansen’s setup man.
Kelly currently holds a 7.79 ERA for 2019 and was placed on the bereavement list Friday.
Friday’s starting pitcher, Walker Buehler, has been victimized by his team’s play behind him, including the bullpen, as much as anyone recently. The Dodgers have lost his last two starts even though he only allowed one earned run over 13 innings during that stretch.