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Dodgers' bullpen issues still need to be addressed

Dodgers' bullpen issues still need to be addressed
Reliever Chris Hatcher got off to a terrible start with the Dodgers last season, but he finished strong. (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

If you liked last year's Dodgers bullpen, you're gonna love this year's. Same bunch of guys, not a flicker of change.

Most, of course, were not too enthralled with last year's bullpen, though it was probably not as awful as it is remembered. Those painful scars of 2014 are hard to shake.

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Several young arms got off to strong starts -- somewhat conveniently while closer Kenley Jansen was on the disabled list after foot surgery -- and then faded. Meanwhile Chris Hatcher, brought in to be the set-up man, got off to a terrible start and then finished strong.

On the whole, it made for a rather mediocre bullpen, which was still a significant step up from the nightmarish 2014. It's just not good enough, certainly not for a team that aspires to a championship.

Last year, the Dodgers' bullpen finished 19th in the majors in ERA (3.91), 18th in opponent slugging percentage (.390), 14th in WHIP (1.28), 11th in opponent batting average (.249), and, thanks largely to Jansen, second in strikeouts per nine innings (9.96).

Overall, OK. Just a long ways from a genuine team strength.

The Dodgers' front office has not been particularly active this winter, what little it has done going to addressing the rotation and prospect depth.

The bullpen has been ignored, so you're looking at picking relievers from the same group from a year ago. Alphabetically, it's Luis Avilan, Pedro Baez, Carlos Frias, Yimi Garcia, Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Jansen, Adam Liberatore, Josh Ravin and Ian Thomas.

There remains work to be done to elevate the group. They can hope the young arms have learned lessons from last season, but it's best not to count on it.

The Dodgers, of course, thought they had made a major upgrade to the bullpen when they had an agreement in principal with the Reds for closer Aroldis Chapman, but wisely backed out when his alleged domestic violence incident became public.

If the off-season free-agent reliever market has been less than robust, most of the big names -- Darren O'Day, Joakim Soria, Tony Sipp, Steve Cishek, Ryan Madson -- are now off the board. The Dodgers may have to revisit the trade route to upgrade the bullpen, a chore that remains.

Twitter: @stevedilbeck

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