The Los Angeles Dodgers are undefeated in the Albert Pujols era.
Since signing the future Hall of Famer last Monday, the Dodgers have won seven straight, including sweeping San Francisco last weekend. Los Angeles looked impressive, both in winning a one run game on Friday night, something that had been a bugaboo for them previously, and a blowout win on Sunday, when they scored 11 runs.
But their bullpen issues were highlighted, especially in the blowout game on Sunday, when starter Julio Urías left the game with an 11-2 lead, and the score ended up being 11-5, although the game could’ve been a lot closer than that.
David Price pitched a scoreless seventh, and then Edwin Uceta came on to pitch in the eighth. He allowed three earned runs while getting only one out, and Phil Bickford, making his Dodger debut, was brought in to get the final two outs.
Dennis Santana then worked the ninth inning, allowing a hit and two walks, causing Blake Treinen to have to start warming in the bullpen. With a nine-run lead, the tired, top-tier relievers should have had the day off, and those four should’ve had easy mop-up duty.
Of course, there are a few things at play here. The bullpen, as like the rest of team, has had to deal with its share of injuries. Corey Knebel, Scott Alexander, Brusdar Graterol, and now, Jimmy Nelson are all on the IL. The pitchers who were in Sunday’s game maybe aren’t pitching if even just half of those injured were healthy.
One can’t imagine that there won’t be more injuries this season, as arms are tested after an abnormal 2020 season. So the question is, do the Dodgers just ride it out with who they have, or do they get a jump on the market and work on trading for another reliable arm well before the deadline?
Knebel is on the 60-day IL. Nelson is on the 10-day IL with right forearm inflammation. Alexander was placed on the 10-day IL on May 6th with inflammation in his pitching shoulder. And Graterol was placed on the 10-day IL on April 29th with a forearm issue.
Graterol seems like he will be the first to return from the IL, although it most likely won’t be until at least next weekend. He threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Friday in San Francisco and is expected to throw again in Houston on Tuesday. Depending on the outcome of that, the team will decide if he is ready to return or if he will go out on a rehab assignment first.
Tony Gonsolin, who is on the 60-day IL, threw three scoreless innings in his first rehab start in Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday. He cannot be activated until May 31, and will make one more rehab start before then, trying to stretch himself out to become the fifth starter.
Once he returns, some of the burden should be lifted off the beleaguered bullpen as they have been having to handle a game themselves about once a week, but that realistically is still two weeks away.
A quick look around MLB and who might have a reliever or two on teams that won’t be making the playoffs shows a few possibilities. Ian Kennedy of the Texas Rangers has 11 saves, 23 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.93. Richard Rodriguez has been having a good year for the Pirates. Old friend Yimi Garcia is having a resurgent year in Miami, and as always, Josh Hader is always in the rumor mill of being traded.
These next two weeks will tell the tale of whether the Dodgers decide to trade for help or ride out the injuries. The front office was proactive in getting Pujols and Yoshi Tsutsugo when a lot of fielders went on the IL, so I would not be surprised if they were also proactive with another bullpen piece. Stay tuned.