Evan Phillips Expected To Be De Facto Dodgers Closer

The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2023 season without a dedicated closer for the first time in recent memory.

Last year, the role was filled by Craig Kimbrel, despite his consistent struggles, and previously it was Kenley Jansen who was the Dodgers’ closer since 2012.

Despite the lack of a set man for the ninth inning, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was confident in his options, which include Evan Phillips, Alex Vesia, Yency Almonte and Brusdar Graterol as the top choices for a closer-by-committee approach.

Phillips is by far their most talented reliever and was expected to stay in the fireman role he had for most of the 2022 season. But as the bullpen begins to shake out this year, Roberts said Phillips will take the lead in the Dodgers closer role, via Jack Harris of the L.A. Times:

“Evan is clearly the most consistent performer, versus left, versus right,” Roberts said. “What that means day to day, when he’s available, he’s probably going to be in the highest leverage. So I would say he’s probably going to finish more games, close more games than any of our guys now.”

Phillips finished last season with a 1.14 ERA, 1.94 FIP, 0.76 WHIP, .153 batting average against, 33% strikeout rate and 6.4% walk rate over 63 innings pitched, along with a team-best 19 holds. This year, the right-hander has pitched three scoreless innings with two saves.

Phillips’ importance has also been highlighted by early-season struggles from Vesia, Almonte and Graterol, although this early into the season there is no reason to panic about the state of the bullpen.

Phillips could go back to his fireman role if someone in the bullpen steps up, or when one of Daniel Hudson, Blake Treinen, Alex Reyes or J.P. Feyereisen return from injury.

If one of them does take over, Hudson seems to be the most likely candidate with his previous closing experience, and he is also expected to return the soonest.

Evan Phillips was willing to become Dodgers closer

Heading into the 2023 season, Phillips said he was willing to close games for the Dodgers, but it wasn’t his main focus.

MLB Network’s The Shredder placed Phillips fourth on the list of Top-10 Relief Pitchers Right Now for the 2023 season.

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