Despite being hampered for another season by an inconsistent bullpen, the Los Angeles Dodgers did little to upgrade their core of relief pitchers. To their credit, the Dodgers did have an agreement in place to trade for closer Arodlis Chapman.
However, that deal came undone once a report surfaced with details of Chapman’s involvement in a domestic violence incident. Chapman was eventually traded to the New York Yankees, and in March, suspended 30 games by Major League Baseball.
Los Angeles went on to sign Joe Blanton and Louis Coleman, and put their faith in young relievers taking a step forward and building on experience gained.
To little surprise, it’s been a rocky road for the Dodgers’ bullpen thus far into the 2016 season. Manager Dave Roberts has expressed confidence in the group and preached patience amid their struggles.
However, after losing the second of a two-game series to the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday, Roberts said there’s been some change as Pedro Baez and Blanton are now handling setup-man duties, per Bill Shaikin of the LA Times:
Dave Roberts said the pitchers setting up Kenley Jansen for now are Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez. #Dodgers
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) May 5, 2016
Up to this point, Chris Hatcher had been the Dodgers’ primary setup man. As was the case early last season, Hatcher has struggled. He’s sporting a 7.50 ERA, 6.91 FIP, 1.75 WHIP and has given up three home runs in 12 innings pitched over 10 appearances.
Blanton’s first late-game action since Roberts’ comments came on Friday night in the series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. Blanton replaced Adam Liberatore in the seventh inning and inherited a bases-loaded jam with Josh Donaldson up to bat.
Blanton needed just one pitch to get the reigning American League MVP to foul out. However, the right-handed reliever allowed a ground-rule double, and a three-run home run after an intentional walk.
While Blanton is responsible for giving up the three runs that proved to be the difference in the Dodgers’ 5-2 loss, Kevin Pillar deserves credit for golfing a pitch low and inside over the fence in left field. The three runs allowed were the first since Blanton allowed since April 8.
He was signed under the notion of serving as a long reliever, though he’s only pitched more than one inning on four occasions. Blanton is now 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in 13 innings pitched across 13 games.
Like Hatcher, Baez also hasn’t found much success this season. He began Saturday with a 4.76 ERA, 6.34 FIP and 1.15 WHIP in 12 games (11.1 innings). Baez is averaging 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which would set a career high, but he’s allowed four home runs and issued five walks.
Baez entered in the eighth inning on Saturday with the Dodgers leading, 6-2. He retired Josh Thole, Kevin Pillar and Josh Donaldson in order, collecting one strikeout in the process. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the club is considering calling up Julio Urias for a role out of the bullpen.
A few hours after Roberts’ comments, Los Angeles claimed reliever Casey Fien off waivers from the Minnesota Twins.