This past offseason, the Dodgers allowed two prominent members of their bullpen to depart in free agency. Brandon Morrow signed a two-year, $21-million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Tony Watson signed an incentive-laden, two-year, $7-million deal with the San Francisco Giants.
The front office of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi opted for their usual approach to building a bullpen. They prefer to avoid spending excessively on free-agent relievers and search for bargains. The team believed it had identified a useful duo in right-handed reliever Tom Koehler and left-handerScott Alexander.
Neither pitcher has done much for the Dodgers in 2018. Alexander was demoted to the minors over the weekend. And while Koehler has begun throwing as he recovers from a strained anterior capsule in his right shoulder, he is not close to rejoining the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts explained before Wednesday's game against Arizona.
Koehler has been able to play catch up to 75 feet. But he is still "a ways away" from pitching for the team that signed him to a one-year, $2-million contract this winter.
The Dodgers' bullpen has pitched below expectations this season. After Adam Liberatore blew a one-run lead Tuesday, the group carried a 4.77 ERA into Wednesday's games, which ranked 22nd in the majors. From 2015 to 2017, the Dodgers ranked fifth in the majors in bullpen ERA.
The malaise started with closer Kenley Jansen, who has already blown more saves in 2018 than he did in the 2017 regular season. With Koehler on the mend and Alexander incapable of throwing strikes, the team has forced other pitchers into higher-leverage spots.
Pedro Baez collapsed over the weekend in San Francisco. Daniel Hudson has given up seven runs in four appearances. Tony Cingrani lost his velocity in a game against the Giants and lost his command this week against the Diamondbacks.
"The guys that we have, the new guys that we brought in this year, they're there for a reason," Clayton Kershaw said Tuesday night. "It's something where we have to find everybody's identity, find everybody's roles."
A new way to watch
Fans can catch Thursday's series finale on Facebook Watch. Log onto Facebook's MLB Live page from phones, tablets, smart TVs or other streaming devices. It's one of 25 streaming broadcasts scheduled for 2018 as part of MLB's partnership with Facebook.
Logan Forsythe (shoulder fatigue) could begin a rehabilitation assignment as early as this weekend. The team has "no idea" when Justin Turner (fractured wrist) will appear in minor league games, Roberts said . . . Roberts hopes Ross Stripling, who logged four innings in a spot start Monday, can pitch out of the bullpen again by Thursday . . .