Clarity in Dodgers’ bullpen remains a long way off

Dodgers reliever Dustin McGowan pitches during an exhibition game against the Seattle Mariners on March 6.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Clarity! You demand clarity!

The Dodgers are at the midpoint of their 2015 exhibition season today and you want answers to their burning spring questions.

Demand all you like, it ain’t happening. And nor should it at this point.

Has Joc Pederson won the center-field job? Not yet, but it’s shaping up that way. His slash line reads .409/.458/.636, while Andre Ethier is at .182/.250/.182. Have they figured out how to use two catchers? Not really, but they’re pleased the way it’s working.

The biggest question of their spring was -- and remains -- the bullpen, that 2014 black hole that demanded an off-season makeover. It got one, too, Brian Wilson, Chris Perez, Paul Mahlom, Jamey Wright, Scott Elbert – all gone.


Then closer Kenley Jansen went down on the eve of spring training, and for now, Brandon League is on the shelf with a sore shoulder.

So what’s the bullpen look like right now? One huge guessing game.

There are few locks largely because the Dodgers have precious few contractual obligations to force decisions. J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta can reserve a seat. Chris Hatcher, despite that last outing, probably can. And odds are Juan Nicasio, who could still serve as a long man, can make L.A. plans.

After that you’d have better luck filling out an NCAA bracket. The Dodgers claim they’re going to take the seven best arms, but you know how that works. The seven best when taking into consideration who has options left and who they would lose if they don’t make the 25-man roster.

Going into this afternoon’s game, the Dodgers still have nine bullpen candidates who have yet to allow a run. That’s some pretty serious competition.

They won’t make the final call until the last minute, as they should. Somebody is going to come up lame, conveniently or otherwise. Somebody is going to peak, flame out or rise above the fray.

Dustin McGowan has a major-league contract some believe makes him a very likely candidate to make the cut, but I’m skeptical. He hasn’t looked impressive thus far, and he was signed to the major-league minimum. He gets $1 million for making the team, which almost sounds like incentive not to keep him if doubt remains.


If Sergio Santos keeps it rolling, he’ll be one of the final seven. He’s yet to allow a run or a walk in his four innings. But even if Howell, Peralta, Hatcher, Nicasio and Santos are all in, that still leaves two openings if it’s determined League has to start the season on the disabled list.

Paco Rodriguez, Chad Gaudin (seven strikeouts in four innings), Pedro Baez, Dan Coulombe, Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, David Aardsma and Chin-hui Tsao have all yet to allow a run.

Tsao is the real wild card. He has only a minor-league deal so he would really have to be lights out to leap ahead of the pack. Which thus far, he has been (0.00 ERA, one hit, no walks, five strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings). They also seem to like left-hander David Huff, and Mike Adams has just started going.

Rodriguez, Baez, Coulombe, Liberatore and Garcia all have options left, so if it gets too close to call, that could likely prove a factor. Every outing is key in this competition. Rodriguez, Baez and Aardsma are among the relievers scheduled to pitch today.

Right now, people almost have to pitch themselves out of consideration. Half way there, and clarity is not making a real appearance.