Through a month and a half into the season, it has been duly noted how relievers in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen have had trouble consistently finding success and holding leads late in games.
However, that’s not to suggest there aren’t members of the bullpen who have shown flashes of the potential and stuff to be dominant relievers down the road. It goes without saying that Kenley Jansen has solidified himself as an All-Star caliber closer in the Majors, and has been one of the few bright spots in the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Though, even Jansen proved he was human over the weekend by blowing two save opportunities against the San Diego Padres. Elsewhere, Chris Hatcher proved to be an effective backend reliever in second half of last season, but he hasn’t been able to duplicate that success.
Another reliever with the upside to serve a valuable role is Pedro Baez, who, like the rest of the bullpen, has struggled to put together a string of efficient outings.
While Baez has been praised by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts for his electric arm, there is a glaring deficiency in his game that has been widely discussed as of late. In last Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Baez struggled mightily, surrendering three runs on two hits and a walk in his lone inning of work, which lasted over 30 minutes.
Yasmani Grandal recently suggested that Baez’s slow nature is part of his identity as a pitcher and forcing him to work quicker could prove negative, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
“I would love for him to hurry up. But maybe that would take him out of his rhythm because that’s not his rhythm, to hurry up. Every pitcher is different. Some guys want to get the ball back and throw the next pitch. Some guys like to think about their mechanics or their grip or whatever.”
Baez attributed his lethargic presence on the mound not to the results, but to ambiguity towards pitch selection in that particular moment:
“Sometimes, I’m not comfortable with the pitch the catcher is calling,” Baez said through the interpreter. “Sometimes it just has to do with the (pitch) combinations. We’ve talked about that.”
Pitchers changing tempo every now and then can be an effective strategy for affecting a hitter’s timing. Conversely, being too leisurely on the mound could cause the defense to lose focus.
To the Dodgers’ delight, Baez has recently improved upon his slow-moving nature on the mound, which may have correlated to his recent success as the hard-throwing right-hander has not allowed a run in his last four appearances.
Three of those came after Roberts acknowledged the club was continued to discuss with Baez the pace he works at.