The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2023 season without an official closer, but Evan Phillips eventually settled into the role after not being tied down to any particular inning last year.
The right-hander continued pitching at a high level despite the increased expectations and pressure as he converted 22 of 24 save opportunities while posting a 2.05 ERA in 61.1 innings.
Phillips was key to the Dodgers bullpen turnaround in the second half, along with several other contributors such as Ryan Brasier, who joined the team on a Minor League contract after being designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox this past May.
Braiser has essentially assumed the fireman role that Phillips occupied and the 29-year-old credited him for being part of a smooth transition to becoming Dodgers closer on a more permanent basis, via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:
“I think letting things kind of [sort out] organically was most beneficial for our group, because it kept my role loose, and I was able to do different things here and there to make sure we had the best opportunity to win a ballgame,” Phillips said.
“But things have definitely ironed themselves out quite a bit, in large part due to [setup man] Ryan Brasier’s ability to pitch the way he has and take down big parts of the order in big moments, along with some of our other mainstays who have done it throughout the year. That’s allowed me to kind of settle into this role.”
Braiser has posted a minuscule 0.70 ERA, 2.48 FIP and 0.72 WHIP in 38.2 innings pitched across 39 appearances with the Dodgers, many of which have come in the seventh and eighth innings.
Since Braiser’s arrival, the Dodgers bullpen has compiled a 2.28 ERA and 9.1 strikeouts per nine with 29 saves in 37 chances. L.A. finished the regular season with a 3.42 bullpen ERA, which was good for third in all of baseball.
Dodgers confident in Evan Phillips
Phillips went through a rough stretch in September before bouncing back with four consecutive scoreless outings to end the regular season.
“I think with Evan, the last couple years the cutter in to lefties has been a big weapon for him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said at the time.
“Able to get that ball coming in on the hands, and right now it’s backing up. Versus right, the sweeper has been really good. I just think right now he’s a tick off.
“I don’t know if it’s mechanical. I know he’s frustrated, but I still have all the confidence in him to figure it out as we go forward.”
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