Reliever Brandon League struggles through early going with Dodgers

PITTSBURGH — This is not what Brandon League, nor the Dodgers, had in mind when League was traded to the club by the Seattle Mariners two weeks ago.

The relief pitcher has struggled in his five appearances as a Dodger, giving up five runs and seven hits in 22/3 innings for a whopping 16.88 earned-run average.

Then again, the right-hander acknowledged he has been struggling with his pitching mechanics all season. Before coming to the Dodgers, he was 0-5 with a 3.63 ERA in 46 appearances with the Mariners.

The heavily tattooed League, 29, is known for his sinking fastball that’s meant to induce ground-ball outs. But too many of League’s pitches have stayed up and over the plate for batters.

“Velocity is not the issue,” League said. “It’s basically that my sinker is flat. If my sinkerball is doing what it’s supposed to do, I’m getting ground-ball outs rather than flyouts or balls in the air, generally.

“I’ve not been mechanically sound all year and I feel like I’m almost fighting myself outing to outing, being inconsistent with my mechanics and my delivery. It’s taxing, but I’ve kept working.”

Manager Don Mattingly conceded he’s “a little more skittish” about bringing League into games “the way he’s throwing the ball. He’s just up in the zone.”

“But I know it’s there, the stuff is still there,” Mattingly said. “If he’s flat, he gets hit. If he goes down, they don’t touch it.”

League’s problems are not unlike those experienced recently by Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario, another hard-throwing sinkerball pitcher who “went through a little stretch where his [pitches] go flat,” Mattingly said.

As for the tattoos, League said he got his first one at age 18 but since then, “I’ve never counted [them] because a lot of them are connected.”

“A lot of them do have meaning,” League added, “but my initial reason for getting them is I enjoy art.”

Juan Uribe starts

Struggling third baseman Juan Uribe made his first start since July 22, mainly because he had batted well against Pittsburgh Pirates starter Kevin Correia.

Uribe, batting only .191 in 57 games overall entering Tuesday’s play, had a lifetime average against Correia of .471 (eight for 17) with a home run and a double.

“I’ve talked about, with Juan, finding the right matchups that work,” Mattingly said. “If I wasn’t going to play him today, he’s not going to play at all.”

But Uribe was hitless in three at-bats against Correia on Tuesday and grounded out against reliever Jeff Locke. Uribe walked and scored in the Dodgers’ five-run ninth inning, but his average dropped to .186.

Mattingly said he also wanted to give second baseman Mark Ellis a day off. So Luis Cruz started at second base, and Cruz had three hits and three runs batted in Tuesday.

Go beyond the scoreboard

Get the latest on L.A.'s teams in the daily Sports Report newsletter.

You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.