By Steve Dilbeck
7:02 PM PDT, June 26, 2013
What to do with Brandon League?
That would be the Dodgers’ deposed closer who is a complete mess. It’s one thing when you can’t trust him to close a game and another when you can’t trust him anywhere.
League has a 5.72 EA and a fat 1.55 WHIP. He is striking out 4.1 batters per nine innings, less than half of what he did for the Dodgers last season (8.9).
He had another meltdown Tuesday that nearly cost the Dodgers the game, and it’s finally reached the point where Manager Don Mattingly said he will no longer use him at the end of games. The goal now is to simply reconfigure him as a useful reliever.
“Try to get him back, start piecing him back together, really,” Mattingly said.
After he put together an outstanding September – six saves in as many opportunities, a 0.55 ERA – the Dodgers were convinced League was their closer and signed him to a fairly stunning three-year, $22.5-million deal.
So obviously, they’re not going to give up on him, but meanwhile don’t look for Mattingly to use him in late-inning situations if he can avoid it while piecing him back together.
“We’ll try to use him in situations that are a little less stressful,” Mattingly said.
Kenley Jansen will continue as the closer and Ronald Belisario as the main eighth-inning guy, but when Belisario needs a day, Mattingly will use the mix-and-match formula for his third late-inning reliever.
“It’s not really the ideal thing to do,” Mattingly said.
At least Jansen looks to have moved past a brief bout of struggles, while Belisario – who’s been hot and cold – is currently is looking strong.
“Honestly, the bullpen has been a fairly big issue this year as far as consistency,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly is concerned enough about League that he asked pitching coach Rick Honeycutt to speak to him before Wednesday game to make sure he was fully healthy.
“We have to make sure [if] he’s not telling us something. Make sure there’s nothing wrong,” he said. “I’m not saying there is. Sometimes guys don’t want to tell you because they don’t want to make excuses. Brandon’s one of those guys, he’s not an excuse guy. We want to make sure he’s healthy and he’ll be able move forward.”
The Dodgers think there could be a mechanical issue they can work on, believing he’s opening up too soon in his delivery, allowing hitters to get a better, earlier view of the ball.
Something clearly has to change. For now, however, the change is an earlier, lesser role for League. While he’s pieced back together.
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