Sometimes, all it takes is an 11-1 drubbing of another contending club to quickly change a fan’s perspective about the direction of their favorite baseball team. When an offense works according to the way it was specifically designed, it takes a huge amount of pressure off a pitching staff, especially a bullpen which has struggled mightily over the past week. And, with the news that closer Kenley Jansen‘s healing progress has been accelerated, the immediate future of the Dodgers doesn’t seem so dismal after all.
“I’m miserable right now,” Jansen said on Friday afternoon. “I need to be out there. That’s why my fingers are crossed for Monday. We’ll see. If that happens, that would be great, so I can come back and help us get back in the race, and try to go where we want to go.”
Jansen had been placed on the 10-day disabled list on August 10 with an irregular heartbeat and has been prescribed blood thinners in the meantime to help alleviate the symptoms. He has been throwing light bullpens, though, with the most recent coming before the opener on Friday night in Seattle.
At one point this week, it appeared as if a poorly constructed bullpen would conceivably push the Dodgers out of the divisional race in the NL West. The front office crew of the Dodgers faced heavy scrutiny as it ignored making any significant upgrades prior to the non-waiver trade deadline last month.
Since Jansen’s illness, the Los Angeles relief crew blew leads in seven consecutive games heading into the Mariners series. The Dodgers lost five of those contests and surrendered control of the division to Arizona. During that time, the team was relegated to depend on the services of such unknowns like Zac Rosscup, JT Chargois, Dylan Floro and Erik Goeddel to provide quality relief. Ironically, it was the highly-criticized Pedro Baez who stepped up on Wednesday evening with an impressive appearance to seemingly bring the crew out of its funk.
What’s more, the rehab of hard-throwing righty Josh Fields was escalated to the Triple-A level on Friday night, when he threw a perfect seventh inning for the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Fields is expected to make at least one more appearance for OKC, then will be evaluated in terms of his readiness for the bigs.
With the prospective return of Jansen, coupled with a late-inning presence of Fields, Scott Alexander and Kenta Maeda—so long as he remains in the bullpen—the landscape of the Los Angeles relief corps would not seem so gloomy. Perhaps by not having the pressure of the ninth inning on their shoulders, Alexander and Maeda will slide back to their normal mindsets, allowing them to successfully setup Jansen.
Throw All-Star righty Ross Stripling back into the bullpen mix and the future looks even brighter. Stripling was placed on the 10-day DL on Wednesday with back problems, but the injury does not appear as serious as it sounds.
“I don’t have any bulging discs or anything like that, it’s basically managing symptoms,” Stripling explained this week. “Give it a couple of days, get on some good meds and try to get the inflammation out of there. I’m going to give it through the weekend, since they are going to Seattle, and I’ll stay here.”
The activation of veteran right-hander Daniel Hudson on Friday provides an additional boost to the relief crew.
Of course, one of the biggest enemies of the Dodgers right now is a gritty Arizona Diamondbacks crew, which still leads the division by a full two games. In the same breath, 39 contests still remain on the regular season schedule—plenty of time for Los Angeles to establish momentum and make a playoff push. Furthermore, the Dodgers will host the D-Backs in what’s shaping up to be a huge four-game series beginning on August 30.