Dodgers News: J.P. Howell, Bullpen Embraces Usage
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen was again a weakness last season, the club largely returned the same core group in 2016. There was effort to upgrade the bullpen, as a trade for Aroldis Chapman was in place.

While that came undone, the Dodgers added Joe Blanton and Louis Coleman to the mix. After struggling out of the gate the bullpen has righted the ship and become a strength. The Dodgers’ bullpen owns has a 2.98 ERA, which is tied with the Washington Nationals for best in baseball.

Additionally, Los Angeles relievers leads the Majors with a .198 batting average against, .272 on-base percentage, and 1.04 WHIP.

Along with overcoming early adversity, the Dodgers’ bullpen has been taxed by a starting rotation that collectively has failed to pitch deep into games with any consistency. The issue has been magnified since Clayton Kershaw was lost to the disabled list.

However, J.P. Howell said the high usage rate isn’t something the bullpen has viewed as a negative, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell said that they welcome the amount of innings they have been required to throw:

“Bring it,” Dodgers veteran reliever J.P. Howell said of the bullpen’s attitude toward the heavy workload. “That’s our attitude. If that’s the way it is – bring it.”

Howell was among those who didn’t find much success during April. He allowed six runs on six hits and only managed to record three outs in his first three relief appearances. He’s given up just one run since June 17.

On the season, Howell has a 3.55 ERA and 1.24 WHIP over 33 innings in 39 appearances. He ranks sixth among relievers on the team in terms of games pitched. Blanton leads the group with 47 appearances, while Pedro Baez, Coleman and Jansen are tied for second with 45.

Blanton has thrown a team-high 52.1 innings out of the bullpen, while yielding a 2.06 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and career-best .149 batting average against. But perhaps the most impressive Dodgers reliever has been Liberatore, who set a franchise record with 28 consecutive scoreless appearances.

Despite the success of the bullpen, the Dodgers may still try to add another bullpen piece before the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline, with Andrew Miller said to be an option that intrigues Los Angeles.