Dodgers could face expensive decision with struggling Brandon League

Dodgers pitcher Brandon League throws during an exhibition game against the Texas Rangers on Friday. The reliever struggled in Monday's 8-8 Cactus League tie with the Oakland Athletics.
(Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

I believe it was that great baseball sage, Daffy Duck, who said of the Dodgers’ bullpen: “What a predicament!”

The Dodgers are flush with relievers. Stocked with veteran arms. Have three former closers backing up Kenley Jansen. Returned veterans J.P. Howell and Jamey Wright.

The Dodgers are so completely stacked in the bullpen right now that barring injury, 2013 standouts Paco Rodriguez and Chris Withrow; Rule 5 draft pick Seth Rosin; another ex-closer, Javy Guerra; and hard-throwing phenom Jose Dominguez all do not figure to make the team.


Neither Rodriguez, Rosin, Guerra and Dominguez have given up a run this spring and have combined for 22 strikeouts in 20 innings.

Which makes the predicament … Brandon League.

Going into last season, League was signed for three years to be the Dodgers’ closer at a whopping $22.2 million. And he went bust. He lost his closers’ job to Jansen by early June and finished the season with a 5.30 earned-run average and a 1.55 walks plus hits per inning pitched.

League showed some signs of getting it back together in the final month (3.68 ERA), but now this spring, with a bullpen overflowing with options, he is again looking lost.

And still owed $17 million over the next two years.

He came in Monday’s 8-8 Dodgers’ tie with the Athletics in the sixth and promptly walked ex-teammate Nick Punto and gave up a two-run homer to Josh Donaldson. He got one out and was replaced by Chris Perez, exiting with a spring ERA of 16.88. That’s three rough outings in as many tries.

The Dodgers are going to hang on to him and dispatch all of their strong, young arms? They have 17 million reasons to keep sending him out there and hope he regains the form he displayed in the month of September in 2012 (0.55 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, six saves). That’s a crazy amount of money to eat, so chances are he’ll remain on the team regardless of his spring, but if he doesn’t turn it around early this season, he could force the hand on a team trying to win a World Series. And possibly sooner.

Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, scheduled to start the second game of the season against the Diamondbacks in Australia, opened Monday’s game with a strong outing. He went five innings, giving up one run, three hits and a walk and striking out four.

Andre Ethier gave the Dodgers an early lead with a three-run homer in the first, and Juan Uribe followed with a solo shot. Pinch-hitter Miguel Olivo doubled in three runs.