Dodgers Bullpen: Caleb Ferguson Emerging as Best 8th-Inning Option


Needless to say, there have been a high number of discussions among fans regarding the bullpen of the Dodgers. Seven games into the season, there are probably more questions now about the relief corps than there were at the beginning of Cactus League play in February.

Taking into consideration the acquisition of righty Joe Kelly and the rise of Pedro Baez, many felt the bullpen of the Dodgers would be among the best in the league. Of course, building a crew of quality relievers is never that easy. More times than not, it takes time to work out the kinks of a newly built machine. The 2019 season is no exception.

Conceivably, things may be functioning beautifully by the time mid-September rolls around. That’s the primary goal. The season is long. But, at least for now, the evolution continues.

A few days after the New Year, I rolled out a prediction of the Los Angeles Opening Day bullpen, and I did not hesitate to include lefty Caleb Ferguson, as I felt that he was unquestionably one of the best eight relief options in the organization. In the weeks before spring training, information began to leak from the team that Ferguson would continue to be groomed as a starter, likely beginning his season as part of Triple-A Oklahoma City’s starting rotation.

Nevertheless, skipper Dave Roberts was not reluctant to mention that Ferguson would be considered for the big league bullpen whenever the team would need his services. When a trio of left-handers—Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Tony Cingrani—began the year on the injured list, Ferguson’s services were needed immediately.

As it turns out, based on the effectiveness with which he’s throwing right now, he just may be on the big league roster to stay.

So far during the young season, the 22-year-old Ohio native has made four appearances, with most of them coming in higher-leverage situations. Over those four games, he has thrown four full scoreless innings, surrendering just three inconsequential hits. He has struck out five opposing batters, but more importantly, he hasn’t walked anyone.

In Wednesday’s series finale against the Giants, Ferguson was perfect in the eighth inning. He set closer Kenley Jansen up nicely as the Dodgers ultimately prevailed, 5-3.

In the meantime, Baez has made three appearances and has allowed four earned runs on a walk and four hits—one of them a home run—over 3-2/3 innings. Kelly has been much worse. In two appearances, the righty has given up six earned runs on a walk and seven hits—two of which were long balls.

Kelly was tagged with the loss against the Giants on Monday, but he is indirectly responsible for both of the team’s defeats.

While there’s a really good chance that the landscape of the Los Angeles bullpen will change as the season progresses, one thing is true right now—based on the way everyone is throwing, Ferguson is certainly the best eighth-inning option.

Look no farther, Dave Roberts.



26 thoughts on “Dodgers Bullpen: Caleb Ferguson Emerging as Best 8th-Inning Option

  1. I could easily see the front office changing their plans and trying to develop Ferguson into another Andrew Miller type reliever. Might actually be more valuable to them in that role considering how many potential starters they have for the next few years (Kershaw, Urias, Buehler, May, Gonsolin, Stripling, Maeda and maybe an extension for Ryu).

    1. I just wonder if there’s a slider in the works. For some of their prized youngsters, the Dodgers’ brass has never rushed the development of the slider. Clayton Kershaw is a great example. Some who know physiology well argue that the slider is one of the most harmful pitches to throw.

  2. Granted it’s very early so none of this means all that much; however………………………..we are not only leading the league in homers but also batting average with RISP. RVS should get himself an extension now, before it all blows up.

  3. I’d teach them all the two seamer. It’s the pitch Maddox and Hershiser mastered. It’s not that difficult to learn. Change the grip by moving the thumb left or right under the ball and aim for the middle of the strike zone. The cutter is another pitch that helps miss sweet spots.

    Ferguson, Cingrani, Alexander and Urias, if he’s left on the roster, along with Baéz, Kelly, Floro and Garcia should be a decent core group to lead to Jansen. A lot of good arms there. I can’t help but think at least one long reliever, maybe two, would alleviate a lot of pressure. Urias and Ferguson can go 3 each when necessary and can certainly go 2 frequently. Remains to be seen how good our starters will be for 7 months.

  4. Ferguson has ice water in his veins. Kid is very composed on the mound. His stuff is very good. The bullpen is where the first changes will come. That is obvious. They are stuck with Kelly so it is up to Honey to figure out where the problem lies. Garcia is easier to get rid of. Baez is exactly what he always has been A lightning arm and a two cent head. That heater of his will not get the job done on it’s own. He needs to mix it up and when he does do that, he is as good as anyone out there. Alexander unblemished so far. All the damage done to the pen has come off of those 3 for the most part.

    1. I’m fine with giving Kelly, Yimi and Pedro more time to get straightened out, especially if we keep hitting like this. Ultimately, those three guys at their best is probably better than anyone we could bring up from the farm. I say give them some time. We definitely need to cut Stewart loose so he can get his head on straight with some other organization. We totally screwed him up with all the up and down, starter and reliever garbage we put him through. Do him a favor and cut him loose.

      1. I still can’t figure out why Stewart is on the roster and not Chargois. Management says that Stewart’s length could come in handy, but he hasn’t shown any really good stuff in a single inning yet.

      2. I think when they speak about his length, they’re referring to the distance from the top of his cap to his cleats. By the way, I see that the Brewers have claimed Donnie Hart off waivers from us. Why wasn’t I informed that he was even put on waivers. I need to know these things. Anyway, that means that Hart won’t be the one to replace Stewart, and yes, I’m still a Chargois fan, so let’s bring him aboard.

      3. There was a roster switch at AAA before their season started. Gonsolin is now on OKC’s roster and Alvarez was sent to AA Tulsa.

      4. Yes, but when Dave Roberts says, “Yimme”! the opposition licks their lips and says, “Yummmy yummy!”

  5. The Kelly signing puzzled me a bit since he has not been at his best during the regular season. Also he hit Hanley Ramirez on purpose. So why do we want a dirty player.

    1. Kelly managed to convince Hanley it wasn’t on purpose when they became teammates. How come he can’t convince you?

  6. I agree Dennis about the slider especially when guys are throwing it almost 90 mph. It’s got to be a factor with all these UCL injuries. I’d like to see Ferguson develop a nice change up. Something that would fade away from a righty. I say give him the 8th inning till he proves otherwise! He’s got the stuff and makeup for it

    1. I think the smart way to go about it is to match up relievers figuring every night they will have to be efficient and keep us in the game for 4 innings. I’ve said for years I would put my closer up against the middle of the order in the 8th if they came up then. I don’t care about the Save stat as much as I care about the matchup.The key is who’s coming up. e.g. – If the top of the order is up in the 6th…. wouldn’t that be a good time to bring in a guy like Urias or Ferguson? … your option is to start matching up guys, including LOOGY’s, to get those key outs. Get through the top and middle in the 6th and 7th, pinch hitters in the 8th and your closer is there for the top of the order.

      But then I’m for a 6 man rotation too. That hasn’t caught on yet either.

  7. The best thing about the rosters expanding to 26 next year is no more 4 man bench. I think it seriously limits a managers in game options and Roberts is one of the worse when they go into extras

  8. Our first Robert’s bash of the year. That might be a record for ol Dave! He almost made a full week!

  9. Dustin May got one step closer to OKC tonight, and by extension to Dodger Stadium. 5 innings 0 runs, 2 hits, 1 bb, 9 k.
    Kershaw starting his 6th inning for OKC. Thru 5 innings: 2 runs, 1 homer, 5 hits, 2 bb, 7 k, 1 pickoff, 70 pitches/49 strikes. He could probably use one more rehab start, but I doubt they’ll be able to convince him of that.

      1. You’re right Scoop. Went back and checked Gameday and they changed it from what they had 10 minutes ago. I don’t think another start at OKC would hurt him either, but what do we know. The question is does AF make that decision or CK? We should know in the next couple of days.

      2. 61 pitches. 42 strikes. I don’t know. Maybe.

        I think Kershaw decides. If everything checks out, and he says there are no lingering issues, he could go from 61 to 75 next time out. That could get him 5, which on this team is all that is asked. Of course, he threw against minor leaguers today. 5 days from now we’re in St Louis.

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