We’re halfway through the third week of spring training and, so far, the Los Angeles Dodgers news from Camelback Ranch has been fairly tame. Norovirus swept through the clubhouse this past week, sending over two dozen Dodgers back to their bunks (and, presumably, their bathrooms) for a couple days before running its course.
Many media outlets who cover the Dodgers have been spending quite a bit of time this winter discussing the components of the prospective 2018 bullpen, and we are no exception. For the most part, the group who will make up this season’s relief corp is defined, but which roles each pitcher will ultimately assume—sans Kenley Jansen—may take some time to develop. Last season, after a few years of searching, the club’s quest to find a quality eighth-inning arm was finally fulfilled when righty Brandon Morrow eventually settled into the part; however, that exact pursuit will begin anew when players begin reporting to spring training next month.
Needless to say, the journey through the 2017 season for righty reliever Pedro Baez was a rocky one. Near the halfway point of the campaign, his ERA was almost microscopic, yet when the Dodgers‘ roster was selected for the NLCS against the Cubs, his name was omitted. In early September, he was frequently booed by fans at Dodger Stadium, as skipper Dave Roberts took to the press a number of times to defend him.
The final series of the regular season in Colorado has been nothing short of action-packed, to say the least. The offense of the Dodgers has once again been showing some signs of waking up in critical situations, and the relief corps has proven that it’s capable of taming one of the hottest offenses on the senior circuit. Yet, among all these exciting twists and turns, there are still a few playoff roster spots up for grabs. One of the vacancies which has seemingly been garnering the most attention among those familiar with the club is the final spot in the Dodgers’ bullpen.
All week long, most of the discussions around the Dodgers blogosphere have been surrounding the impending 25-man roster for the upcoming NLDS. While the majority of the key decisions certainly have already been made, there are a few spots which have come down to the final series of the regular season, with a few of them involving the prospective starting rotation and bullpen. Unfortunately for the pitchers doing the auditioning, Coors Field isn’t exactly the ideal spot to plead a case.
As there’s still the matters of wrapping up the division, vying for home-field advantage, and putting together some much-needed continuity inside the final nine games of the regular season, many fans of the Dodgers can’t help but look ahead and wonder which players will be called upon for the 25-man roster when the postseason arrives in just a few short weeks.
Although there is still a lot of work left to be done, those of us in Dodgers Nation can breathe a little sigh of relief after the recent series in San Francisco. Our beloved team is starting to look like the powerhouse team it was earlier in the season.
The good news is with 25 games remaining on the regular season schedule, the Dodgers still maintain a 12-1/2 game lead over the Diamondbacks in what has progressively become an interesting race in the National League West. The bad news is that Los Angeles runs into Zack Greinke on Tuesday evening in the middle game of a three-game set at Dodger Stadium. Greinke seeks to notch his 17th win of the season and keep the momentum rolling for the Snakes, who have now won 11 straight and 13 of their last 14 contests.
As the month of September is now upon us, and despite the foregone conclusion that the Dodgers will capture their fifth consecutive NL West division crown in the coming weeks, there really hasn’t been much discussion about a prospective playoff roster. Subjectively, it’s probably a lot better that way, because the next four weeks will be an audition of sorts for some areas of the roster, and the bullpen is shaping up to be a place that’s potentially loaded with surprises.
From a pitching standpoint, much of the spotlight from the opener against the Pirates on Monday evening was placed on lefty starter Alex Wood‘s performance and potential shoulder dilemma; however, the general perception of the Dodgers‘ bullpen as of late has been causing many fans to be a bit concerned, especially when looking ahead to the postseason.