Some Thoughts on the Dodgers’ Bullpen Woes

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Kenley Jansen got hit literally and figuratively in last night’s game, and ended up blowing the save. The Dodgers, down 6-1 at one point, had battled back to make it an 8-6 game going into the ninth inning. Jansen was hit with a comebacker, and ended up giving up a walk-off hit to Bryce Harper.

After the game, Jansen said that he should have been taken out of the game, but his pride and ego didn’t allow that. He described his night like this to Bill Plunkett of the Southern California News Group –
“It definitely felt numb. It didn’t feel great,” Jansen said later after limping to his locker. “Then the second pitch to (Cesar) Hernandez I couldn’t push no more. It was just pain.

“If I look back, I probably would have come out of the game. But I’m not going to take myself out of the game. It didn’t help us. I couldn’t even push anymore. I couldn’t even go (toward) home. It was all arm.

“I just told him ‘It hurts but I’m good. Let’s go,’” Jansen said of the visit from Roberts. “Listen … I’m not a quitter. Even if it hurts, I’m still going to go out there and compete. But I should have been a little smarter myself and be honest with myself and come out of the game. I take the blame on myself.

I’m not an excuse guy. But I shouldn’t keep pitching. … I should have come out of the game.”

In June, I wrote a column saying the Dodgers should sign a second closer to go along with Kenley. I’m not going to go so far as to say that Jansen isn’t elite anymore, because he’s third in the National League in saves, and no one seems to be elite lately with the uptick in homers. Even Josh Hader gets hit around every now and then. Kenley is definitely a victim of his own success, as he was downright dominant before.

But he, and the front office, need to recognize this before the trade deadline, and the playoffs. Kenley himself needs to do a better job of recognizing when he doesn’t have it. That’s a huge ask, I understand. But after losing the last two World Series, what is best for the team is what has to happen. I stand by the thought that the Dodgers need to go all in, and get that second, dominating arm. No one seemingly has a great bullpen staff, but to win it all, the Dodgers should have the best of those who make the playoffs.

There has been rumblings of Julio Urias filling that role of lefty arm towards the end of the game. The Dodgers do hate to part with prospects, so an in-house option seems like a good idea. But Urias is a starter, and I’m always wary of using an arm like that, even if he’s been being used as a long reliever all season.

The Dodgers need a bullpen arm, and that’s it. You can argue all day about what players are playing which positions, and whether some are suited better for one position or another. I have a feeling that that will work itself out by October. But to borrow the adage of the NFL that ‘Defense Wins Championships’, bullpens win championships for the MLB. Let’s get it done, Friedman and Co.

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59 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on the Dodgers’ Bullpen Woes

  1. I’ll give Kenley credit for one thing. When he blows a game, he takes the blame for it. But letting his ego get in the way of coming out of the game last night is absolutely inexcusable. Roberts should get in his face today if he didn’t already do it last night and tell him that if he ever again isn’t truthful about an injury he’ll get suspended.
    Will Doc do it? Of course not, because we don’t want to offend Kenley.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Three run walkoff homer? I must have misread the box score.

    Urias will eventually be a starter. This year? Yeah. Maybe. But at this point lining him up to be a reliever in the playoffs seems like a logical play. Maybe Hill will be available then too.

    Agree we need relief. It’s coming. Who? Iontkno.

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  3. The latitude and respect doc gives kenley has to be a two way street, if not, doc needs to quit deferring to kenley , and make the call his self.
    I’m with you Jeff, doc needs to give kenley a good ass chewing, and tell him it better not happen again, that’s a game we should have won.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “I should have come out of the game. I’m not a quitter..bla bla bla….Not the words of an intelligent man. Jansen is a has been. And NO it should not happen again—I like IT WILL NOT happen again! Roberts can ride that Disney train along with Jansen, right out of Dodger stadium. Choo choo….I think I can, I think I can…! Pleeze!

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  4. In essence, Kenley lied to his manager. Probably happens all the time, but this time it cost a game. I’m curious how Roberts might approach this going forward.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Am I good or am I good? I’ve been saying for a couple weeks now that Friedman is likely to skip over the big name relievers for some lesser known guys and I said Jake Diekman is the epitome of a Friedman guy. Now it seems that the Dodgers are indeed in heavy on Diekman.

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    1. If AF skips over the big name guys and only gets Diekman you don’t have to bother making any plans for a parade in downtown L.A. in October Alex. If you give me a choice between Diekman and Ferguson (even setting aside the fact that Diekman would cost us a prospect or two), I’ll take Fergie every time.
      We need a difference maker (or two) for the bullpen. I have no idea what the teams who have them are asking for them so even if we don’t get them I can’t necessarily say that Friedman was wrong in not making a big trade, but I can say that without someone like a Vazquez, Smith, Hand, Yates or someone that he finds that gives us the same results, we’ll have a very frustrating time in the playoffs this year.

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      1. I actually wouldn’t mind Diekman because he strikes a ton of guys out but we would need to also add another solid reliever. With Kenley faultering we need to get another guy capable of closing.

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    1. I agree Rich. Diekman strikes out a ton of batters but also walks way too many.
      Ferguson, whom I was touting above, has been having the same problem this year but he seems to have really improved in OKC. Of course, he’s pitching against AAA hitters down there.

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    1. Uh… yeah. 2 more errors, 2 more unearned runs. This guy has DH written on his forehead. Until then, give him one defensive position to man and make it be the easiest one on the field.

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      1. I’m not sure we could trust Freese at third either. Obviously Doc doesn’t think he can. That only leaves Kike, so Freese at first, Muncy at second, Kike at third if all three are in the starting lineup. Third is definitely Muncy’s weakest position by far.

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  6. Diekman seems like the type of guy AF would go after, but I was hoping for someone a little better. Good call Alex, you were all over that.

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  7. A couple of things. Compared to the Phillie pen, the Dodger pen is loaded with Gagne’s. They are a disaster waiting to happen. Games like this one are so hard to get into and watch to the end. Luckily for me, it was over a little after 11:30. But they have to be back out there in a few hours, Hopefully they sent Strip to the hotel during the delay so he can get plenty of rest. Dodgers did make a trade today, they sent Justin Grimm to the Reds for cash. The lead still at 14 with 64 to play. Urias looked pretty good. His stuff is nasty, but for the 4th game in a row, the Dodgers committed at least 2 errors. Muncy is no 3rd baseman, that’s for sure. Beaty has played there some, so maybe he can give Turner a rest now and then. They said today 4-6 weeks for Taylor. Puts him back at the end of August. None of us have a clue as to who AF will target at the deadline. But I think waiting until that day drives up the price of the premium guys. One of the few games I have seen Bellinger look really frustrated. He was just missing pitches. 10 walks and 2 hit batsmen. No retaliation for the head shot on Freese either. Makes me wish Big D was here. Kelly did scare the crap out of Hoskins with a heater that looked like it was going to hit him in the head. Marlins have to face, Ryu, Kershaw, and Buehler……..I wonder if they will get a hit all weekend. One last thing. Jansen is not the same pitcher as he was. We all know that. He rely’s mainly on a cutter that rarely goes above 92 anymore. If that cutter is not moving, he is very hittable. Over the last 3 seasons he has become very susceptible to the home run ball. He is no longer an elite closer. But since there is little chance he opts out of his contract at the end of this season. we are stuck with him for at least 2 more years unless someone wants to take that contract off of the Dodgers hands. He still can close games and get saves, but is not as automatic as he once was. More proof the Dodgers would be better served with 2 closers.

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    1. Speaking of who AF might target…. from MLB this morning regarding Luis Castillo:

      “Acquiring Castillo would probably cost Los Angeles bat-missing right-hander Dustin May (92 strikeouts in 89.1 MiLB innings), who has ascended as high as Triple-A, plus touted Double-A catcher Keibert Ruiz and middle infield prospect Gavin Lux (.996 MiLB OPS), who has also reached Triple-A.

      That would gut the top tier of the Dodgers’ system. But it would land them the piece that might help them win it all now and stay dominant into the future.”

      Yoiks. For a reliever? We paid less for Machado.

      Do you do it? For the record….. I don’t.

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      1. Not no but HELL NO!! No reliever in baseball is worth that price. Gavin Lux is Cody Bellinger/Corey Seager untouchable if you ask me. He’s going to be a perennial all star at 2B.

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  8. Yikes! The only 3 prospects we have. But for an young, elite, controllable closer I would certainly send 2 of the 3. Prospects are prospects and history says it would be unlikely that one (or even 2) will end up as major leaguers. May is struggling and ruiz cant hit so do it. Better than giving up 1 for a rental. We have a farm of career minor leaguers so throw in a few of them.

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    1. Good point Rich. Whahapin to him?

      It’s my opinion your 3 top prospects for a one inning pitcher is too much. A top prospect, plus a couple young B prospects, yes. Since we are so deep in catchers, pick one not named Ruiz…. Smith, Gonsolin/White, and Kendall….#s 4, 5/8 and a first round pick….. that should be enough. The Reds still owe us from the Micah Johnson trade. I don’t feel like doing them any more favors.

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  9. What am I missing guys? Luis Castillo is a starter, not a reliever. He’s been in 19 games for the Reds this year, every one of them as a starter. Still wouldn’t give up all those guys for him, but he’ll probably be one of the best starters in baseball over the next five years.

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    1. You aren’t missing anything Jefe, I am. When I posted that I was confusing Castillo with Iglesias. I sir, am an idiot.

      Castillo would obviously work for us, and would change my offer. It would also put a couple of our starters in the pen for the playoffs. Kershaw, Buehler, Ryu, with Castillo and everyone else in the bullpen. Wow. What a staff.

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      1. Castillo has incredible stuff and, as a very controllable starter, should be worth more in prospects than Vazquez. I don’t think you even have to look at scenarios involving him. They ain’t gonna happen.

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    1. OK Rich, who’s spot does he take on the roster? He will probably stay with the team as long as Taylor is on the IL, which looks like late August. Taylor will get his spot back period, which means do they recall Beaty on the first of September? They can only bring up 3, and most likely a couple of those will be pitchers. Smith is one of the most likely Sept call ups. And some think they will bring in Lux. There is not enough room on the roster for all the talent. Doubt that changes anytime soon. They might trade some guys this winter, but who? Joc? Maeda? Ferguson recalled from AAA and Sadler optioned back.

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      1. As far as I’m concerned, we can trade Joc and let Beaty take his minutes/innings/games. That is assuming Joc has some trade value, which I’m sure he does. On the other hand, the way Beaty is playing he might be on the list of every team we’re talking to about relievers.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. You have a point, but I seriously doubt Ol Andy messes with team chemistry and trades one of the 3 players on the team with 20 homers no matter what trade value he has. Joc’s OBP is what has kept him in the leadoff role against RHP despite a .238 average. Beaty is doing great, But he would not fill that leadoff role, and he might have the same power potential as Joc. but he has not shown that at any level so far.

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      3. I admit that I don’t give Joc enough credit. It’s just that I tend to favor hitters who aren’t so streaky and who aren’t homer or nothing.
        Speaking of Gavin Lux (oh, weren’t we speaking about him?), top of the 7th in the OKC game today, he’s 4-4, including 2 doubles and a homer. Now hitting .532. This is absolutely insane.

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      4. I totally understand. Lux is making his case, that’s for sure and so is Beaty. Nice to see Kike have a nice day at the plate. The bullpen falters again. Muncy has 3 more K’s. His K rate has spiked over the last month. Belli hits in some bad luck. I think he will be very glad to get home. Some are going to blame Kelly, but this in on Fergie. He did not do his job. AF is definitely going to have to get some solid BP arms. What we have right now is not nearly good enough.

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  10. Game is on YouTube today. Only Orel from the Dodger broadcast team is in the booth. Ben Davis, a former catcher is the analyst. Big difference is no commercials in between innings. Some interesting interviews. Kershaw was really good and on the mic when Beaty and Kike went back to back.

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  11. Two bullpen losses and one bullpen win in this series. We just don’t have anyone consistently good out of the pen except Urias and he’ll probably be a starter soon if Hill doesn’t make it back. Ferguson you can’t give up free bases. The kids not a reliever. Sendbhim back down, learn a third pitch and give him the opportunity to start and see what he’s got. We desparetly need a lefty out of the pen!

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  12. Another unearned run hurts us.

    I’d include Joc in a trade for a closer. I’m sure most teams would be interested. Beaty is another young bat that teams would be interested in. We shouldn’t have to trade any of our top 3 prospects if we are willing to trade proven young Major League talent in a package.

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  13. It will be interesting to see what it takes to get Smithnout of SAn Francisco. I think Farhan wants prospects more than major leaguers.

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  14. Y’all are thinking with your hearts and not your brains. In order to even understand all this you have to think like AF. First and foremost, he is not trading either of his top prospects for a reliever. Not Smith, or Vazquez. It just is not done in his universe. Expecting him to come out of his modus operandi and do that is simply unrealistic. If he trades for a reliever I absolutely believe it is going to be someone who is under the radar. Maybe even someone no one has thought of. He might try to pry Smith away from Farhan, but he knows the Dodger system as good as AF does. So Smith would not be cheap per se even though he is just a rental, which is usually the kind of guy AF goes for. Right now it is quite obvious that he needs at least 2 solid arms down there and one of them definitely needs to throw from the port side. Ferguson is not the answer. Like I said earlier, he is not going to trade Joc and mess up the chemistry of the team. If he did I would be totally surprised. Joc might go in a deal in the winter, but at the deadline, sporting 21 jacks and being the leadoff hitter against RHP, I doubt that. Urias is set up to be in the 2020 rotation. He might make a spot start here and there, but if he replaces Maeda at all, I would not think it is until the last 30 games of the year. The bullpen should be the focus, as of now, it does not look like Pittsburgh is going to sell anyone unless it is one of their surplus outfielders.

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    1. I don’t think he trades Joc either. I said I would if it brought back somebody a whole lot more better than Beachy. I agree that believing the Tampa trained signer of Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson is going to trade top prospects for a proven top reliever is probably not a good bet. I’m thinking this year it’s different. That’s not my “heart” thinking that’s my gut thinking. Counting the years he made the playoffs in Tampa Andrew Friedman has come up short exactly every single time out of every single time. I feel this year, with this team, he just might try something different.

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  15. The fact that they haven’t brought Smith up who clearly is the better option than the two Mendoza’s we have catching makes me think he could be in a package for a reliever. We trade from from an area of strength and depth in our system.

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    1. Why would he do that? Smith right now is probably MLB ready. Ruiz has not shown that at all with a bat. Smith has hit 21 homers this year between AAA and MLB and our boys have hit 7 total. Smith is clearly way ahead of Ruiz in development. I am not packaging Smith for any reliever. Ruiz may be higher rated, but I still like Smith a lot better. And I sure do not trade Smith for Smith or any other lefty not named Vazquez.

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  16. By they way, Smith is not up purely because the like the catchers they have right now. Both are excellent defenders and with the offense this team has, they can afford to keep them. It has nothing to do with Barnes or Martin’s offense. Take that kind of thinking and move to San Diego. They are shopping almost everyone in their outfield.

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  17. Shades of opening day, OKC hit 8 homers today. Garlick hit 3, DJ Peters hit 2, he is also tearing it up at AAA hitting .348 with 6 homers down there, Rios hit one, Connor Joe hit one and Lux joined the party, his 7th. He is hitting .538 down there. Smith did not catch, but neither is he on the IL. Seems his injury is not all that bad.

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  18. Stewart got the win going 6 and allowing 4 runs. He gave up 2 homers and walked 4. Nunn and Spitzbarth each threw a scoreless inning in relief. Nunn was signed as a free agent after being cut loose by the Rangers.

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    1. I just want to point out to everyone that when we finally get our premier reliever, the offense will go into hibernation for a while because subconsciously they’ll expect the bullpen to carry the team. Same can probably be said for the starters. So as you are all pulling your hair out the first week of August when the pen is doing beautifully and our hitters and starters are horrific, remember that Jeff D. told you so on July 18th. That’s just the way life and baseball are. Nothing ever goes according to plan. Don’t worry though, it will all be sorted out by October when we go undefeated in the playoffs.

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      1. Nothing goes according to plan, and you plan on it all being sorted out by October.

        Gulp.

        I’ve noticed something on Gameday. If their pitchcast is accurate, some of our guys are beginning to chase. Especially Joc. Keep that up as a team and a schneid is a surety.

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      2. I don’t plan when other people are the ones making the decisions.
        My statement about everything sorting itself out by October was just foolish optimism.

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      3. The last undefeated team in the playoffs? ‘76 Reds. So…. it’s been done before.

        Foolish optimism? Only if you have expectations. I think you know better

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  19. Bear,, if your happy with Barnes and Martin then what good is Smith to us. If trading him in a package brings us a high level reliever and would make us a big favorite to win a WS why not do it! I’d trade Smith for Smith in a heartbeat to bring us a WS!

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    1. Where in the world did you read that I was happy with Barnes and Martin? I said the Dodgers are happy with that for now. Smith is the future and they are not trading the future. He right now is much better than Ruiz who is having trouble hitting AA pitchers. Be realistic. It would take more than just Smith to land a high end reliever from anyone. All reports say Vazquez is not going to be on the market. AF is not trading Smith for a rental, and if you think that is a smart move, sorry, that’s asinine. You might trade Smith, but a high end reliever, no matter who it is does not guarantee a damn thing.

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  20. Don’t know if Farhan would since they already have Bart but for me Lux and May are untouchable but everyone else is on the table because that 2nd closer is our ticket for a WS title!

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    1. I’m not sure what Farhan would do. I know he would like to gut our system if he could. I’m betting since he and Friedman built it together they would agree on who it is they see as the future of the Dodgers.

      Bart is targeted to arrive in ‘21 but it might take a couple years before he’s All League. What is Farhan’s timeline? I’m pretty sure he wants to at least be entertaining soon. They have played better lately. Looking at their system they have nobody but Bart in the Top 100 and none of their pitching grades out better than 50. Their top pitching prospect had TJ and is currently serving a suspension. If Farhan thought Smith could step in right away and perform he might give us his Smith if we threw in pitching. And it may not have to be immediate pitching. He could be interested in someone that may be breaking in when Bart has been there a while.

      I believe Friedman will keep the Top 3. I don’t know who that is, but I think it’s Ruiz, Lux and May. There are some very interesting prospects after them. Some may fit into Farhan’s 2021 and beyond plans.

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  21. Y’all are dreaming. There is no one trade out there that guarantee’s anything. Everyone said the same crap when Darvish came over and look how that worked out. Same with Machado last year, but they were no where near as good as Boston was. Now they are the best team in the bigs, their BP has some holes it is true, but it still is not as bad as Philly’s. Sorry, I am not trading Smith for a rental, and I doubt AF will either.

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  22. I’ll give you an even better reason for keeping Smith. There are 63 games left. Martin is 35 years old. What if something happens to Martin or Barnes? There is no one else at AAA to replace either of those guys. Smith came up the first time because Martin was down. You want Gale, or Smith? Get real and see the big picture, not just the tunnel vision about Smith for Smith…ain’t happening. If it did, it would prove that AF is an idiot.

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    1. You’re beginning to sound like the bully in Indiana.

      Something could happen to anybody. Then what do we do? I too doubt AF trades Smith for Smith. I don’t think Zaidi is looking for catching, I think he’s looking for everything else, and rebuilding begins with pitching. And you’re right, nobody knows what will happen, that’s why it’s fun to throw stuff against the wall. I have no problem trading prospects for a rental if that rental fills a hole. There are plenty of examples of teams doing just that and having it work out.

      Our Will Smith has made a giant leap in just a few months. At the beginning of the year he was rated a B- prospect. In November it was said he needed more time “due to 37 strikeouts, unable to make contact in first look a Triple-A”. Are we convinced he’s the guy who OPS’d .999 in 29 PA’s in his call up or is he the guy who struck out 3 times in his last game with the Dodgers. I’m not convinced, that’s why Ruiz, ranked 28th in the MLB Top 100, is my choice for Dodger catcher of the future. That’s why I say I would consider Smith for Smith. But I’m not the GM and frankly I’ve sucked trying to predict what Andy is going to do.

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  23. Our bullpen simply isn’t good enough to beat the Astros or Yankees! So you’re satisfied with another WS loss? Not me! We have to get a second closer type reliever! Go big or go home! It worked for Toronto Raptors this year? Do you think the Yankees are gonna sit still this deadline? They’re gonna sign a big starter. We have to follow suit. Heck anybody could get hurt. Can’t operate out of fear. We have the assets to get it done and I think AF will come through

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