The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen has been among the better units over the past several seasons, but its their shortcomings that often get remembered. Particularly for Pedro Baez, who has been booed off the mound at Dodger Stadium on multiple occasions.
Although Baez has often been the subject of outside criticism, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has regularly called on the right-hander in key moments. The latest test for Baez came Saturday night when he inherited a bases-loaded jam from Caleb Ferguson.
The Dodgers held a 3-1 lead, taken the inning prior when Joc Pederson lined a two-out, two-run triple into the right-center field gap.
Baez rescued the Dodgers by inducing a shallow fly out to left field and a pop up, followed by striking out Josh Bell.
Following the win, Roberts raved about the progress and confidence Baez maintained during his struggles, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“He’s really grown. You can’t get into a bigger spot than that, and just to make pitches, keep making pitches and get us out of that. Obviously, that was the difference in the game. Over the last few years I’ve put him in some of the toughest leverage spots for any reliever. He’s overcome a lot and he’s a guy we’ve counted on the last few years. This year, he’s just really dialed into who he is as a Major League pitcher, his strengths, hitters’ weaknesses. No moment is too big for Pedro.”
Clayton Kershaw, who earned his first win of the season in large part to Baez putting out the fire, praised his teammate for pushing through down moments:
“I think the great thing about Petey is you can’t tell. I love that about him. … That’s the mark of a great reliever, a guy you can count on. Fans are booing him or whatever; it’s not fair and he knows that. He’s great. Tonight, I guarantee you he doesn’t care about that (getting cheered). He’s just glad to get the big outs that we needed.”
Kenley Jansen, who has come to Baez’s defense both publicly and privately, also spoke highly about his ability to ignore external noise:
“It doesn’t matter with him. Petey, his personality, it doesn’t matter what people think about him. He’s here for one thing: to try to help us win ballgames. He just keeps his composure and keeps his focus forward. Now he’s one of the most valuable guys in our bullpen.”
The normally stoic Baez showed some emotion upon striking out Bell by pounding his chest as Dodger Stadium erupted.
Baez has only allowed earned runs in three of 14 appearances this season — two, three and two — which lends to an inflated 3.94 ERA. He otherwise is sporting a 0.81 WHIP, collected 16 strikeouts in 16 innings and held opponents to a .169 batting average.