Dodgers Roster: More Bullpen Thoughts as 2022 Postseason Approaches

About the only two good things happening lately in the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen are the continued dominance of righty reliever Evan Phillips and the progression of right-hander Yency Almonte in his recovery from elbow issues.

Over 59 appearances this year, Phillips has logged a 1.24 ERA, but if you’re a non-believer in ERA for relievers like me, the 28-year-old Maryland native has put up an impressive 2.09 FIP and an astounding 0.741 WHIP.

The run Phillips surrendered against the Padres three weeks ago was the first run he gave up since July 21 against the Giants. Although skipper Dave Roberts has used Phillips lately in the highest leverage situations, we might see a shift to the closer role soon since Roberts confirmed that Craig Kimbrel is no longer the team’s primary closer.

The problem with using Phillips exclusively in the ninth inning is that there is a lack of quality relievers to set him up. Blake Treinen will not be ready for the beginning of the postseason, and although there’s some hope he could return for the later rounds, it doesn’t make much sense to bank on it at this point.

Despite the skepticism, Los Angeles still ranks second in the majors with a 3.01 team bullpen ERA, thanks primarily to the success of Phillips. Alex Vesia has been decent with a 2.26 ERA and a 2.22 FIP, and there’s some hope that Brusdar Graterol might return to being a higher leverage guy after being activated from his second stint on the injury list. The same applies for righty Tommy Kahnle.

Many thought that Caleb Ferguson could be an X-factor in the postseason, but he continues to fluctuate up and down, as made evident by his poor outing on Friday night in relief against the Cardinals.

Almonte could be the boost the Dodgers need. After throwing a perfect inning in his first rehab appearance for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday, the righty came back on Friday and threw another perfect inning with one strikeout against El Paso. There’s definitely no rush to bring him back, as the first-round bye allows the team to take its time with increasing his load.

Although Tony Gonsolin might not have enough time to stretch out adequately as a starter, he could conceivably return as a reliever. Gonsolin joined David Price on Thursday in a sim game, with both pitchers throwing to hitters like Hanser Alberto, Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor and Miguel Vargas in live action.

This is definitely good news, although it’s still not safe to bank on an effective return for either pitcher at this point.

A lot of the relief success this postseason could depend on the returns of some key arms like Almonte, Treinen, Price and the re-emergence of Kahnle. While that list certainly represents a lot of “ifs,” the bullpen might return to its dominance if those players can produce.

Dodgers Activate Brusdar Graterol, Other Team Notes

According to a team announcement on Thursday, the Dodgers activated righty reliever Brusdar Graterol from the injured list after optioning lefty reliever Justin Bruihl back to Triple-A Oklahoma City. The move comes hours before the team’s series finale against the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.

Graterol returns from the injured list for the second time this season after being sidelined since September 1 with right elbow inflammation. He has appeared in 41 games for the Dodgers this season, compiling a 2-3 record with a 3.02 ERA (15 ER/44.2 IP) and 39 strikeouts. In parts of four seasons with the Dodgers, he is a combined 7-6 with a 3.65 ERA (45 ER/111.0 IP) and 89 strikeouts.

Bruihl recorded his first career save on Sunday night against the Giants. The southpaw is 1-1 with a 3.80 ERA (10 ER/23.2 IP) and 13 strikeouts on the season. He has been with the Dodgers two seasons, recording a 1-2 record with a 3.40 ERA (16 ER/42.1 IP) and 24 strikeouts in 45 games. He was originally signed by the Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent on July 15, 2017.

Although many fans had hoped that Blake Treinen would return to the team quickly after his latest bout with shoulder soreness, the prognosis has not been so good. Skipper Dave Roberts indicated on Wednesday that Treinen may not be available in time for the postseason, which is slated to begin in just over two weeks from now.

The Dodgers’ first-round bye will afford Treinen a bit more time to try to work his way back, but banking on his return at this point is unwise. If they could get the 34-year-old back in the fold, it’d go a long way towards improving their playoff bullpen that’s currently anchored by righty Evan Phillips.

In other news, Yency Almonte continues to work his way back from elbow tightness. The righty appeared in his first rehab assignment for OKC on Tuesday, throwing an entire perfect inning with a strikeout.

In the meantime, lefty Julio Urias takes the bump for the Dodgers on Thursday as he continues his bid for the 2022 NL Cy Young Award. He will be opposed by Arizona righty Zac Gallen, who is considered by some to be a dark horse in the race.

The Dodgers will welcome back Albert Pujols and the Cardinals for a three-game set at Dodger Stadium beginning Friday. Set to start the first two games for the Dodgers are left handers Andrew Heaney and Clayton Kershaw.

Has Julio Urias Emerged as National League Cy Young Award Frontrunner?

Although there hasn’t been an overwhelmingly long list of NL Cy Young Award candidates this year, the favorites to win the honor continue to shift as the home stretch of the regular season approaches.

Righty Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins has been a favorite since the beginning. His 1.73 ERA in the middle of July solidified him as the clear leader at the time, but those numbers have changed significantly in the second half of the year, especially after he ran into a few solid teams like the Mets and the Dodgers.

Late in the spring, Tony Gonsolin made a run at Alcantara for the leading spot, but the Los Angeles righty’s forearm soreness has since removed him from the race.

Entering Sunday’s games, the 27-year-old Alcantara has made 29 starts this season and has posted a 2.43 ERA, a 3.10 FIP and a 1.016 WHIP with 181 punchouts. If you’re giving out an ironman award, Alcantara is your man, leading all major league pitchers with 203-2/3 innings pitched and 796 batters faced.

However, lefty Julio Urias of the Dodgers has Alcantara beat in several other major categories. Obviously, the voters do not look at wins, as made evident by Urias’s poor showing in the 2021 voting after he led the league with 20 wins and didn’t even crack the Top 5 finishers.

This year is a different story. Now leading the National League with a 2.27 ERA and a 186 ERA+, many pundits contend that this may be Urias’s season to take home the prize.

Here’s the crazy thing — if you look at Urias’s stats from July 15 on, he has been virtually untouchable with a 1.30 ERA and a .171 opposing batting average over 11 starts and an even 69 innings of work. If any voters on the panel take second-half performance into consideration, Urias is far and away the clear winner.

Plus, his 17 wins don’t hurt his case if there are still any old-school BBWAA voters out there.

Of course, Urias would probably be the first one to tell you that these awards are entirely secondary to his club’s championship quest. We know that Urias will be one of the workhorses of the Los Angeles postseason rotation if he stays healthy, but we don’t know if skipper Dave Roberts will tighten the reigns on his usage as the final few weeks of the regular season approach.

With 18 games left on the schedule, Urias could still comfortably log three more starts. Even if they’re limited in innings — let’s say five frames per outing — he could still pad his stats enough to pull away as the clear NL Cy Young winner.

Atlanta lefty Max Fried is also emerging as a potential candidate with a 2.52 ERA, a 164 ERA+ and a 1.015 WHIP over 28 starts and 175-1/3 innings pitched. The 28-year-old Santa Monica resident has posted a 2.22 ERA over 13 starts since the beginning of July.

Righty Zac Gallen of the Diamondbacks might also be a dark horse. His 2.52 ERA matches Fried’s and his 0.921 WHIP leads the entire National League.

It should be interesting to see how much the BBWAA voters put an emphasis on innings pitched this year. If you look at performance based on longevity, Alcantara might be your man. If you consider overall performance based on opportunity and effectiveness in the second half of the year, you almost have to go with Urias.

Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on Possible Playoff Rotation

Heading into Saturday’s games, the Los Angeles Dodgers have 19 contests remaining on the regular-season schedule. There’s still plenty of work to do as far as National League and World Series home field advantages go, and there’s still some sorting out to do regarding the roster.

The Dodgers play their final regular season game against the Rockies on October 5, then they’ll have to do some waiting before finding out who they’ll face in the NLDS. October 5 falls on a Wednesday, and the Wild Card games do not begin until that Friday. Regardless of whether the Wild Card rounds last two or three games, the Dodgers won’t play until Tuesday the 11th, giving them nearly a full week of rest.

It might sound like a broken record at this point of the season, but health could be the primary determiner of how well the Dodgers do in the 2022 postseason. For as good as Dustin May was in Friday night’s opener against the Giants, we learned that he was dealing with some arm soreness earlier in the week, which was the main reason why his start was pushed back a day and probably the reason why manager Dave Roberts replaced him in the sixth inning of a no-hit effort.

Although the soreness is likely a result of easing back into a normal workload, fans can’t help but be concerned.

As it stands, May might be the fourth starter on the playoff roster. While there’s a possibility the Dodgers might only need three starters if they sweep in the NLDS, there will eventually come a time for a fourth. In a perfect world, the Dodgers will not have to employ any bullpen games, which might have been one of the contributing factors to their defeat in the 2021 NLCS.

The news on Tony Gonsolin hasn’t been good. Although Roberts continues to tell reporters his righty might be good to go for the playoffs, it’s definitely not wise to bank on him returning at 100%. There have been some recent whispers that Gonsolin could return to the playoff roster as a reliever.

Career-wise as a reliever, Gonsolin has made eight appearances and has thrown 22-1/3 innings with a 1.254 WHIP and 4.03 ERA. As a starter, he has logged 50 starts and 248-/3 innings with a 0.958 WHIP and a 2.32 ERA.

Anyway, should health stay on the Dodgers’ side the rest of the way, Julio Urias, Clayton Kershaw and Tyler Anderson will join May in the NLDS starting rotation mix in some order. Andrew Heaney may still have some work to do pleading his case for roster inclusion.

Gonsolin remains in the maybe category.

MLB Celebrates Legacy of Roberto Clemente

The 2022 MLB season marks the 21st year that the league has celebrated the legacy of Roberto Clemente, perhaps the greatest humanitarian and arguably one of the best outfielders the game has ever seen.

This year, the league recognized Thursday, September 15, as Roberto Clemente Day. It was highlighted by the Pirates — Clemente’s former team — playing the Mets in New York at Citi Field, with managers, coaches and players from both clubs all wearing Clemente’s No. 21.

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Dodgers Pummel Padres in Weekend Series Finale

The Los Angeles Dodgers continued to show their dominance of the NL West with an 11-2 win against the Padres on Sunday in San Diego, securing a 2-1 series win and clinching a playoff berth in the National League.

With the victory, the Dodgers took one step closer to yet another NL West division title.

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Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on Potential Postseason Roles

25 games might be the ideal amount of time to prepare for a postseason run in terms of deciding roles, resting starting pitchers and looking at players who previously may not have been considered.

But those 25 days could also be a potential pitfall if any injuries occur to a key player.

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Justin Turner Named Dodgers Nominee for 2022 Roberto Clemente Award

Major League Baseball today announced that Justin Turner was named as the Dodgers’ 2022 nominee for the Roberto Clemente Award, one of baseball’s most prestigious individual honor for major leaguers.

The annual award recognizes the player who best represents the game of baseball through extraordinary character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions, both on and off the field.

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Dodgers Host Giants for Final Time in 2022

While many fans of the Dodgers anticipated a much tighter division race at the beginning of the season, the final meeting between Los Angeles and San Francisco at Dodger Stadium this year has little impact on the way the NL West is turning out.

Before Monday’s first pitch, the Dodgers own a full 19-game lead over the Padres. The Giants are still on the southside of .500 with a 64-68 record and 27-1/2 games out of first place.

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Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on Current Starting Rotation

While the starting rotation of the Los Angeles Dodgers was one of the team’s most consistent strengths throughout the regular season, it has quickly become a potential postseason concern as multiple injuries will have at least some kind of impact.

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