Brandon League, the Dodgers’ unexpected closer
Yeah, after an unexpected interruption, I’m back …
It’s the last day of September, and Brandon League is still the Dodgers’ closer. Not the way it was planned. Not when the Dodgers started the season with Javy Guerra as their closer, not when Kenley Jansen then took over the role and flourished.
And certainly not the way anyone would have envisioned it when League came to the Dodgers prior to the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline and started off with a 10.80 earned-run average in his first seven games.
Even when Jansen returned after resolving his irregular heartbeat issue, the initial plan was after an outing or two, he would return as the team’s closer.
Only League remains the closer, and will apparently finish the season that way.
“We always say, we don’t make the roles, they make the roles,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “He’s really thrown zeroes.”
Since that rough start for the Dodgers, League has been near perfect. He has pitched scoreless baseball in 18 of his last 19 outings, for a 0.44 ERA. He has converted six consecutive saves and has not allowed an earned run in his last six appearances.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next year or where we’re going to go, but at this point there’s no reason to change anything because he’s throwing so good,” Mattingly said.
And it’s not that Jansen has struggled since his return Sept. 20. In his six scoreless appearances since coming back, he has not allowed a hit. He turned 25 on Sunday.
Also Ronald Belisario recently had a string of 17 consecutive scoreless appearances snapped. Late-inning options suddenly abound.
If this makes the current situation awkward, Mattingly acts unconcerned. There have been no private meetings to make certain all are on board.
“Who knows? It’s the way it is right now,” Mattingly said. “I can’t really worry about it. We’re just trying to win games.
“I don’t want to be cold-hearted about it, but at some point you’re trying to win games, put the best people in the best position. If they want to win, then they’re on board. If they’re worried about next year or the year after, then they’re worried about themselves and not the team.”
Next year is another matter. League, who turns 30 in March, can become a free agent at the end of the season. He earned $5 million this year.
“We like Brandon, but obviously he’s free to choose whatever he wants to do, so you don’t know the combination of guys you’re going to have,” Mattingly said. “We’re pretty confident that no matter what the situation, we’ve got Kenley, so I’m not worried about it one way or another.”
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