Dodgers’ bullpen arms are leading concern as trade deadline looms
The Dodgers feel pretty good about their lineup, particularly with Manny Machado now in it. They like the depth and quality among their starting pitchers.
The bullpen? They’ll get back to you on that, probably with a new reliever or two acquired by the July 31 trade deadline, and maybe with one of their former big prospects.
Four months into the season, the Dodgers have no idea who the most reliable arms might be in their bullpen, and how best to deploy them.
“In most years, you kind of have a clear idea,” manager Dave Roberts said Saturday. “Right now, to be honest, we’re still trying to figure that out.”
The Dodgers remain interested in Zach Britton, whom they pursued last summer and discussed with the Baltimore Orioles during trade talks for Machado, and the Orioles’ Brad Brach. On Friday, the Dodgers scouted the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays, each of whom have available relievers.
The Dodgers also have monitored All-Star closer Blake Treinen of the Oakland Athletics, in the event the A’s consider trading him. The A’s acquired closer Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets on Saturday.
The Dodgers’ wild card this season could be left-hander Julio Urias, 21, who has not pitched since having shoulder surgery 13 months ago. The Dodgers still consider Urias a long-term starting pitcher.
But, with time running short this season and an identified need in relief, Roberts said it “makes sense” to condition Urias for three innings and 45 pitches, rather than the six innings and 90 pitches generally required to prepare a starter.
Roberts said Urias could go on a minor league rehabilitation assignment next month.
The Dodgers lead the National League in home runs. Their starting pitchers lead the league in earned-run average.
However, only one NL team began play Saturday with more blown save opportunities than the Dodgers: the San Francisco Giants.
The Dodgers have put Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list twice this year, and four times in the last three years. They want their ace healthy to start Game 1 of a postseason series, and so they could not have been overly thrilled Saturday to see him try to score from third base on a ball that skidded beyond the catcher — and to see him slide into the plate and get tagged out.
The Dodgers would rather he not try plays like that, but they acknowledge that his competitiveness helps to shape his greatness.
“I think that he understands our stance,” Roberts said, “But, when he gets in the batter’s box, whether it’s fouling pitches off and acting like a position player or, on the bases, trying to go from first to third, or sliding into home plate, it’s tough to have him gear down. He’s there to win a baseball game. He knows his health history and his value to us.”
As a pitcher, Kershaw said, he tries to strike a balance between responsible behavior and giving his best effort to help the team win.
“We’re not on the bases a ton,” he said. “We’re not going to be super-aggressive or anything like that. But you should be able to get dirt-ball reads, take the extra base.
“It’s part of the National League. That’s what I love about it. It’s part of baseball. To me, baseball is a two-sided game. You should be able to play offense and defense.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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