Dodgers’ Brandon League gets tepid backing as the closer
After watching Brandon League struggle through another tough outing in the series finale with the Miami Marlins, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly was asked Monday whether the right-hander was still his closer.
His answer wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence.
“Yeah, for now he is,” Mattingly said. “I hate to say it like that. But yeah, for now.”
League has given up runs in six of his last seven appearances and has just two hitless innings in the last month. Kenley Jansen, on the other hand, has given up only one hit in his last 52/3 innings. On Sunday, Jansen struck out four of the five batters he faced and his 2.29 earned-run average in 19 appearances leads the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Paco Rodriguez (2.51 ERA in 19 appearances) has been almost as good, allowing one baserunner in his last six games and seven innings. He hasn’t given up a run this month.
But given the bullpen struggles — the Dodgers have blown five of 14 save opportunities and their relievers have a 4.65 ERA, second-worst in the National League — Mattingly said he can’t afford to save his best pitchers to protect a ninth-inning lead they may never have.
“You have to get there somehow,” said Mattingly, who sees Jansen and Rodriguez as his most reliable bridges between his starters and the ninth inning. “If we’re getting there all the time, we’re getting to the ninth consistently and everybody’s pitching well and everybody’s doing their thing, it’s a lot easier to set a role. Right now we haven’t gotten there consistently and we’ve had to use Kenley probably in some ways we don’t like using him. We’ve had to use Brandon in some ways we don’t like using him.”
The Dodgers say rehabbing right-hander Zack Greinke will pitch Wednesday; they just haven’t decided where.
Among the possible locations are Dodger Stadium, where he would face the Nationals in his third big league start of the season, and Rancho Cucamonga, where he would face the San Jose Giants in his second minor league rehab start in six days.
Mattingly said Greinke, who fractured his left clavicle a month ago, experienced no problems in Sunday’s bullpen session. But the Dodgers appear uncomfortable turning their $147-million free-agent acquisition loose on the mound in a major league game as opposed to having him make another minor league start in a more controlled environment.
“We’re just a little worried [about] covering first and running into somebody, hitting and sliding, covering home plate and blocking the plate,” Mattingly said. “A lot of little things can happen where he lands on his shoulder.”
Ted Lilly, on the disabled list since April 30 because of a strain in his right side, is expected to make a minor league rehab start this week. That could come as early as Wednesday at Rancho Cucamonga, depending on where Greinke pitches. … Scott Elbert, coming off elbow surgery, made his second appearance in four days for Rancho Cucamonga, pitching a perfect inning and striking out two.