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Dodgers

Chase Utley is swell, but what about that Dodgers’ bullpen?

Don Mattingly

The question when Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly, right, replaces a pitcher isn’t who’s next, it’s will the reliever be effective?

(Frank Franklin II / Associated Press)

Can you picture James Carville, this time with a baseball cap covering his polished dome, pounding fists on a Dodgers boardroom table and shouting, “It’s the bullpen, stupid!”

Which is not to say Chase Utley is not a nice addition, just that he doesn’t exactly fill some glaring need. Enrique Hernandez appeared more than able to hold down second base until Howie Kendrick returns from his hamstring injury.

The bullpen, of course, is an entirely different matter. It screams need, as it did last year at this point, and as it has for most of this season, though particularly of late.

“This move is obviously not mutually exclusive from adding to the ’pen, or anywhere else on the roster,” General Manager Farhan Zaidi said.

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You’d hope so. Since June 1, the Dodgers’ bullpen has a collective earned-run average of 5.35. During the first two months of the season, it had a 2.55 ERA.

It’s become painful to watch the starters turn a slim lead over to the bullpen. And it’s not like an area of concern that has somehow escaped the Geek Squad. They don’t need statistics to reaffirm what their eyes tell them.

“Look, it’s obviously been a rough stretch,” Farhan said. “Bullpens in general are the part of the team where performance tends to be the most volatile. The thing for us, every guy in our bullpen has had a track record, or even stretches this year, where they’ve been really good. Some of it I think is just a few of our guys hitting speed bumps at the same time.”

That’s a lot of speed bumps. Still, you can assume Farhan and Andrew Friedman are scanning their options and not just waiting for things to suddenly come together in a bullpen that’s been rocky for almost three months.

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“This is something we’re kind of working on on two fronts,” Farhan said. “One is continuing to look for options to upgrade any part of the team, bullpen included.

“But the other part is we have good arms and guys who have performed well in the past, even if they’re not at peak performance right now, and we have to find ways to get the most out of their ability. Whether that’s looking at their mix of pitches, their sequences, getting them in the right matchups, which I actually think we have done.

“There’s a track record and ability level with these guys. There’s a reason they’re on the team. We feel confident they can get the job done and we have to do what we can to get the most out of their abilities.”

I’m thinking they’re not all that confident. The Dodgers may be the most expensive team in baseball history, but they are certainly not without their share of flaws. And the biggest remains, as Carville could tell you, the bullpen. 


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