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, Cardinals Look to Tune-Up Before Postseason

Mookie magic propelled the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-2 walk-off win Thursday. It was the Dodgers 104th victory this season, which puts them three wins away from their franchise record with 12 games left to play.

Sure, breaking the franchise record will be nice, and it raises the question if this is the best Dodger team of all time. But, we all know the actual goal, and it’s cruise control until the postseason.

The Dodgers look to inch closer to the 107 mark against the St, Louis Cardinals this weekend. A nice series against another playoff team, and it pauses all the division play the Dodgers have been doing. This is the last non-division series for the regular season until the playoffs.

The Dodgers are expected to honor former Dodger Albert Pujols before Friday’s opener. Pujols, however, is still looking to break more records than he already has. Pujols looks to reach 700 home runs. He is currently at 698, so there could be potential history at Dodger Stadium. So for those sitting in the pavilions, bring a glove.

Back to the Dodgers, Craig Kimbrel pitched the top of the ninth inning Thursday and gave up a homer that put the Diamondbacks in front. Kimbrel had a stretch in which he pitched scoreless innings, but he’s back to giving up runs. Just an inconsistent year from Kimbrel, and it’s going to be hard not to have a panic attack if he steps onto the mound in October despite the leverage situation.

L.A. has already clinched a first-round bye, and the only thing left to clinch is the best record in the majors. It appears if anyone can catch them, it will be the Houston Astros, who are 5 ½ games behind. The current magic number for the Dodgers to clinch the top spot is eight, so barring any last-minute disaster, they should be able to get it.

The Dodgers, including this series, only have three series remaining. After the Cardinals, they’ll face the Padres in San Diego, which might as well be another home series at Dodger Stadium south. They’ll then conclude the regular season with six straight against the Rockies, the same team they began the season against.

Pitching matchups for the three-game set against the Cardinals have been set. The Dodgers are trotting out all left-handers with Andrew Heaney, Clayton Kershaw, and Tyler Anderson. The only worry for the Dodgers is health and getting the players tuned up for the postseason.

The Cardinals are countering with left-handers Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery and veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright for the finale. So quite the familiar names and a couple of baseball legends on the field for this series.

The first pitch for Friday’s game is at 7:10 p.m. It will also be an Apple T.V. exclusive.

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.

Early Thoughts on Dodgers Postseason Pitching Options

Two weeks from today ends the 2022 regular season. Two weeks left for the Los Angeles Dodgers to decide who will be on the postseason roster, work out any kinks, and, most importantly, stay healthy.

The Dodgers currently sit at 103 wins, three shy of their all time record. As we’ve mentioned before, that record is bound to fall.

And as we all know, while it would be a historic regular season, to a lot of fans it doesn’t matter if the Dodgers do not win the World Series. To have the best team, pretty much from the beginning of the season to the end, and then fall short in the playoffs, would be another disappointment in this run of truly great Dodger teams.

The area of most concern going into the playoffs is the starting rotation. The offense with the Big Four at the top should be worrying other pitching staffs. The bullpen, if all come back healthy, should also be pretty steady. But the starting rotation has a few question marks.

At the beginning of the season, the Dodgers had a plethora of options. Tony Gonsolin, who mid-season was a serious Cy Young contender halfway through the season, wasn’t sure if he was going to be in the starting rotation, or at least at the very back end of it. But injuries stole the latter half of his season, and it still remains to be seen if he will be able to contribute in the playoffs in a meaningful way.

Walker Buehler, thought to be the second coming of a Bulldog at the front of the rotation, is out until least the end of next season recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Clayton Kershaw, Andrew Heaney, and Dustin May have all been out parts of this season dealing with injuries, with May most notably returning from his own Tommy John surgery. That leaves Julio Urías and Tyler Anderson as the only starters who have not dealt with injury this season.

Urías started the season a bit shaky, but has been strong since mid-June. He has won 15 of his last 16 starts, and has pitched to a 2.27 ERA. He has a low walk rate, and usually strikes out between six to eight batters an outing. His one issue is he tends to allow a homer each game- however most of the time it is just a solo shot.

Kershaw has been very good since his return from the IL. In his last four games, he has only allowed four earned runs, and walked four batters. He struck out 10 in his last outing against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night.

So the question becomes, who do the Dodgers turn to after Urías and Kershaw? May seems to be the most obvious option. Since his return to the rotation, he has had two shaky outings. On September 2nd he allowed six runs to the San Diego Padres, and his next outing he allowed four runs, also to the Padres. His three other outings he allowed no runs twice and one run in the other. If he continues to get his groove back, the firepower of May would be a great playoff edition.

Anderson and Heaney could be used to piggy back each other, especially in a tough seven game series. Or they could be used as long men for one of the other starters.

Something that could be interesting to watch is if a starter gets used like Julio Urías did in the 2020 postseason. Urías threw the final pitch of the World Series as the Dodgers did not trust many other arms out of the bullpen. The playoffs are also in a format closer to the 2020 postseason, where there is not an off day between games five and six for a travel day.

In that vein, on Wednesday manager Dave Roberts said that Blake Treinen will not be activated this week, as had previously been thought. He is not bouncing back from his Monday bullpen as had been hoped, and Roberts indicated the team is unsure if Treinen will be able to contribute in the playoffs.

Brusdar Graterol will be activated on Thursday.

The Dodgers do have the luxury of having a lot of arms from which to choose, and time to have things sort themselves out. For now, fans will just have to speculate which arms will possibly get the Dodgers back to being World Series Champions.

Dodger Legend Maury Wills Passes Away at 89

The Dodger family has lost some legends this year, first with the most outstanding sports broadcaster ever to pick up a microphone in Vin Scully, and now franchise legend Maury Wills.

The Dodgers announced that Wills passed away Monday night at the age of 89.

Wills had many different roles with the Dodgers. First off, as a player, when he became the first player in the modern era to steal 100 bases, something that probably won’t happen in the future of the game. Wills won National League MVP in 1962, was a seven-time All-Star, and was on three World Series-winning Dodger teams.

He was a dangerous threat on the basepaths for opposing pitchers and catchers. He led the National League in stolen bases for six straight seasons from 1960-1965. He also won two gold glove awards.

Wills remained involved in the game, taking jobs as an announcer, coach, and advisory roles. He also was a musician in the offseason and played live in several shows.

Wills was a mentor to current Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and was vital in arguably the most significant moment of Roberts playing career when he stole second base against Mariano Rivera in Game Four of the 2004 ALCS.

Wills remained involved with the Dodgers organization and would make occasional appearances from time to time. Baseball lost a true speedster.

The Dodgers are likely to hold a moment of silence for Wills today. The Dodgers play a doubleheader Tuesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks in a rare five-game series. Los Angeles won their 102nd game of the season Monday night 5-2 over the Diamondbacks.

Right-hander Michael Grove will start the first game, Ryan Pepiot was also added to the roster, and the plan is for Pepiot and Grove to take most of the innings.

Left-hander Tyler Anderson was activated off the paternity list and will start the second game. Arizona will start right-hander Zach Davies, and Drey Jameson.

The first pitch for the opening game is at 12:10 p.m., and the second game is scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m.

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.

Dodgers, Giants Face Off for Final Time in 2022

The last trip up to the bay for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the three-game series in which they got swept, seems like ages ago. But a lot has changed since that series, as the teams have trended in opposite directions.

The Dodgers have clinched the division and are looking to surpass the 100-win mark in this series. The Giants are at 69-74 and 8 ½ games out of a playoff spot.

Los Angeles is still five games ahead of the Astros for the best record in the league, which is really what they should be focused on now. That and keeping everyone healthy, but you can only do so much. Max Muncy was hurt in the last game of the year last season, but that was in the middle of a tight pennant race.

After this game, the Dodgers only have three road games against the Padres. The rest of the games are home games.

With the Dodgers clinching this early, it could hurt or help them. It gives them the chance to rest players, but at the same time, too much rest can always cause a player to go cold.

Apart from that early season sweep, the Dodgers have dominated the Giants. The Blue Crew have swept the Giants twice in four-game series. The Dodgers own a 12-4 record against the Giants this season and have beat up on the division quite a lot.

Pitching matchups have been set for this season finale between the two rivals. The Dodgers are starting Dustin May, Julio Urias, and Andrew Heaney. These starts will also become tryouts for the postseason roster, as the Dodgers can only fit so many players into the roster.

May came back from Tommy John surgery late this season and is still looking to ramp up for the postseason, as the Dodgers could use him. Urias has been the most consistent Dodger starter this season, and it is incredible how far he’s come. Heaney, while he has struggled with injuries a bit, has had an excellent deal, similar to Tyler Anderson on a one-year deal.

The Giants are starting Logan Webb and Alex Cobb. They have not announced a starter for Saturday’s game.

No matter the record, it is always fun to beat the hated ones from up North. Hopefully, the Dodgers can put one last exclamation point on the rivalry for this year. It will be the last time the two teams play each other 19 times each year, as there will be fewer meetings between division rivals next year due to scheduling enhancements.

Friday’s game is on Apple TV, the first pitch will be at 7:15 p.m. Pacific.

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 Clinch NL West Title

After a very blip where the Los Angeles Dodgers won 106 games but not the NL West last season, they are once again on top of their division, clinching early and in commanding fashion.

On Tuesday night, led by another stellar Clayton Kershaw outing, and with their magic number at one, the Dodgers defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-0 to win the NL West. With 20 games left, the Dodgers have a 20.5 game lead over the second place San Diego Padres.

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