Having officially named Ross Stripling as their fifth starter, the next significant roster decision Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and the front office face is in the bullpen.
The group of relievers was largely unchanged during the offseason, with the signings of Joe Blanton, Louis Coleman and Jamey Wright the lone additions. Blanton is assured to make the Opening Day roster as the club’s long reliever, and Wright announced his retirement after 19 seasons.
Meanwhile, Coleman remains entrenched in a battle with incumbent left-hander Luis Avilan. “Unless something unforeseeable happens, we’re going to carry seven in the ‘pen,” Roberts said on Friday. “We’re still deciding between Coleman and Avilan.”
Roberts continued to say Pedro Baez and Yimi Garcia will open the season with the Dodgers. Although Avilan ended 2015 on a high note, he struggled throughout spring.
Roberts said recently he believed the 26 year old lacked confidence, though the first-year manager has continued to point to Avilan’s history in the Majors and the benefit of having multiple left-handers in the bullpen.
“I think [Coleman] has thrown the ball really well, but to have two lefties is a luxury so [J.P. Howell] doesn’t get beat up,” Roberts said. “But, you want to take the best pitchers, guys who are performing the best and feel the best. Louie’s had a good track record, you’ve got to take that into consideration.”
Avilan gave up a combined 15 hits and 12 runs (nine earned) while striking out seven and walking three in nine Cactus League appearances (seven innings). He tossed a scoreless eighth inning on Friday night, despite allowing a leadoff single, issuing a two-out walk and a Charlie Culberson committing a throwing error.
“It was good to see his fastball velocity has held this spring,” Roberts said of Avilan after Friday’s loss. “I still think he needs to feel a little more comfortable with the breaking ball. It’s not as sharp as we’ve seen it. But, this was a good outing.”
Coleman has appeared in 10 games, posting a 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and totaling 12 strikeouts to zero walks in 12 innings pitched. His first nine appearances were all scoreless outings. Further complicating matters is Coleman doesn’t have any options remaining.
Considering the strong showing he had during Spring Training, the Dodgers are unlikely to sneak him through waivers. In the event Coleman is selected over Avilan, Roberts finds comfort in Baez and Garcia being among the right-handed relievers who have success against left-handed batters.
“We’re fortunate in the sense Yimi and [Baez], their splits are pretty similar against a lefty. They get lefties out a good rate,” Roberts said. “It’s a luxury to have them, as well as Kenley and other right-handed guys who don’t have a problem getting lefties out.”
Along with Baez, Blanton and Garcia, the bullpen is expected to have Chris Hatcher, Howell and Kenley Jansen in it. The Dodgers must submit their 25-man active roster for Opening Day by 9:00 a.m. PT Sunday morning.