One of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ biggest weaknesses over the past couple few seasons has be their inconsistent bullpen. The group was slightly improved in 2015, when their 3.91 overall bullpen ERA ranking 19th in baseball compared to 2014 when they ranked 22nd overall.
Outside of signing starting pitcher turned long reliever Joe Blanton, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman left the bullpen untouched. Juan Nicasio was non-tendered last December, and he went on to sign a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Dodgers did have a trade in place to acquire electric closer Aroldis Chapman, though it fell through once reports surfaced of Chapman’s involvement in a domestic dispute.
Friedman has cited the club’s expectation of young relievers to improve by way of experience gained as reason for optimism in 2016. However, holdover Luis Avilan, has done little to inspire confidence.
After getting traded to the Dodgers, Avilan posted a 5.17 ERA in 23 appearances. Despite some of the inconsistency, he nonetheless entered Spring Training as a widely presumed lock to be part of the bullpen come Opening Day.
That may no longer be the case, as he’s given up a combined 15 hits and 12 runs (nine earned) while striking out seven and walking three in nine spring appearances (seven innings). He sports an 11.57 ERA and 2.57 WHIP.
After Avilan had a particularly rough performance on Sunday, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said his inclination was to brush some of the struggles aside, per Doug Padilla of ESPN:
Dodgers lefty Luis Avilan gave up three more runs Sunday and now has a 13.50 ERA this spring. Manager Dave Roberts said he is inclined to give Avilan the benefit of the doubt, but would like to see some results. Roberts’ ideal bullpen has a second lefty in it to go along with J.P. Howell.
Avilan next appeared in Tuesday’s game, inheriting a small jam and giving up a three-run homer; all three runs were unearned. Roberts again discussed the 26-year-old lefty, though was more critical the second time around, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“Luis, you can see the look in his eye, the lack of confidence to make a pitch when you need to,” he said. “Right now, he’s fighting himself a little bit.”
With Adam Liberatore recently being optioned to Minor League camp, Avilan and J.P. Howell are the only left-handed relievers remaining in big league camp. The Dodgers presumably will carry multiple lefties in their bullpen, which should favor Avilan.
However, he does have options remaining. Considering the strong spring Liberatore had — 3.00 ERA, 0.89 whip and 11 strikeouts and zero walks in nine innings across 10 appearances — the southpaws could very well switch roles in the near future.