Rather than save games,
But under the relative anonymity of this unglamorous role, the former closer is starting to rediscover himself.
League's 1.40 earned-run average is the best on the Dodgers, who open a three-game series against the
"It definitely feels good to get outs," he said. "Last year, I couldn't buy an out."
Last year was League's first with a three-year, $22.5-million contract, and he posted a 5.30 ERA in the nightmare season. He was replaced by
It was not the type of performance he or the team expected coming off a strong finish to the 2012 season, when he was acquired by the Dodgers in a midseason trade and became their closer over a dominant two-month stretch.
"I'm not closing, so I wouldn't say confidence-wise it's the same," he said. "I'm not in the same role. I'm not complaining about where I'm pitching. Like I said in
Only twice this season has League entered the game with the Dodgers leading. One time, they were ahead by five, the other time six.
Twice, he went in with the score tied. Both times, the game was in extra innings and the Dodgers had no other relievers available.
"When you talk about confidence, you can't compare your mind-set pitching early in the game to later in the game," he said. "It's just not the same. Pitching in a tied ballgame versus pitching when you're down by 11 or up by 11, it's just not the same."
But League's role could change soon.
Hyun-Jin Ryu is scheduled to return from the disabled list and start Wednesday's game, which would move
Asked whether he would prefer to pitch in more critical spots, League said, "If someone tells you otherwise, they don't deserve to pitch at all."
As for why his performance has improved as much as it has, League said it's simply the result of pitching down in the strike zone consistently.
"Basically, the difference is my ground balls. They're hitting the dirt in front of the plate instead of the grass," he said. "Ground balls are finding gloves. That's basically it."
He pointed out that his strikeout rate isn't significantly higher. Last season, he averaged 4.6 strikeouts per nine innings. This season, he is averaging 5.7.
Keeping the ball down has produced another benefit: He still hasn't given up a home run.
However, League downplayed the significance of how he has started the season.
"It's May," he said. "I mean, I could not have a scoreless inning the rest of the season and you wouldn't be talking about my April and May."