Dodgers Bullpen Management: Who Has Emerged Amid Early Strain

The Los Angeles Dodgers sit atop the National League West in the early portion of the regular season, posting a 10-5 record and currently standing as the only team in the division that is over .500.

Questions surrounding the Dodgers are clear: the bottom third of their lineup and the bullpen, which has been among the league’s most used units.

Of course, the outlier is they Dodgers have played two more games than the majority of Major League Baseball teams due to the Seoul Series against the San Diego Padres.

Entering play Friday night, Dodgers relief pitchers have logged a combined 66.1 innings, the most among all teams. They have a 4.61 ERA, but that is skewed as a result of Connor Brogdon, J.P. Feyereisen and Gus Varland having less than two innings of work.

The Dodgers have shied away from utilizing their relievers on back-to-back days, outside of Alex Vesia, who pitched on Tuesday and Wednesday. Vesia yielded a go-ahead home run to his first batter faced in the fifth inning on Wednesday.

In the offseason, the Dodgers traded away their other left-handed option, Caleb Ferguson, to the New York Yankees. That left them with Vesia as the lone left-hander in the bullpen, aside from Ryan Yarbrough who is filling a swingman role.

Yarbrough isn’t a one-inning guy, as his job is a long man. In four appearances, the lefty has logged 13.2 innings, tallying a 3.29 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and .212 batting average allowed.

But the lack of another one-inning option from the left side has plagued the Dodgers bullpen in some situations, with Vesia being the only immediate arm in matchup spots.

Michael Grove is in the same boat as Yarbrough, that he’ll be pushed and pulled between long relief and one-inning appearances. In short stints, Grove’s stuff has played up. But when left in for too long in an attempt to eat innings, he’s been lackluster.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and the front office have maintained their stance that a six-man rotation isn’t the direction they’re headed toward, but there was a planned bullpen game on April 2.

Bullpen games for the Dodgers are likely to be part of their thought process in how to fill innings to provide starters with rest. But the potential strain and volatility of relying on a soft-tossing lefty and Grove aren’t the areas to hang your hat.

From the perspective that the Dodgers will operate in that sense, at least until a reliable sixth option presents itself, the offense will just have to hit their way into sustainable leads.

The rotation has done their job, for the most part, and their ERA should regulate in a few turns through.

A forgotten aspect is the absence of two key Dodgers bullpen arms in Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen. Neither have appeared in a game this season and Graterol isn’t eligible to come off the 60-day injured list until the middle of May.

Treinen is closer to returning, but is still weeks away after taking a line drive to the chest prior to the regular season.

Dodgers bullpen circle of trust

Evan Phillips

Evan Phillips has remained consistent and is a perfect 4-for-4 in save opportunities thus far. He owns a 1.59 ERA, allowing three hits in the 21 batters he’s faced.

There should be no question about who is at the backend.

Ryan Brasier

Signed in the offseason to a two-year, $9 million contract, Ryan Brasier is again proving his turnaround was worth investing in.

Of six appearances, he’s made one start, allowing one run on three hits allowed. Brasier has walked just one batter to his eight strikeouts, while notched three holds.

Daniel Hudson

Continuing a theme of veteran arms, the Dodgers brought back Daniel Hudson. In six appearances in 2024, he’s logged a 1.50 ERA, 3.04 FIP, with one save.

In six innings, Hudson has struck out seven with no walks allowed.

Nabil Crismatt

Thought he wouldn’t sneak this in? The narrative lives on.

Nabil Crismatt joined the Dodgers on a Minor League contract in December, making his debut with the team on March 31 against the St. Louis Cardinals. In his two innings pitched, the right-hander struck out three hitters, allowing just one hit.

Of his 29 pitches, 22 landed for strikes. Crismatt was designated for assignment the next day, but the Dodgers retained him after he cleared waivers.

The importance of Crismatt being in the organization is still his ability to miss bats, and the butterfly changeup that looked as if the Dodgers unlocked a special part of his game.

Crismatt could also be a mirage, and this could blow up in a hurry. But however it turns out, he’s an interesting name to keep an eye on if the Dodgers need a veteran arm to supplement a bullpen finding its feet on the periphery.

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