Depth hasn't yet paid off in bullpen

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
1:01
AM PT
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers got The Beard back before Tuesday's game, but Brian Wilson was the only reliever who didn't pitch. He warmed up a couple of times and would have pitched at the end if the Dodgers could have gotten a lead in extra innings.

The Dodgers are so loaded with well-paid veterans in their bullpen that they were practically forced to option one of their most reliable relievers the past two seasons, Paco Rodriguez, to Triple-A Albuquerque to get Wilson on the roster.

[+] EnlargeChris Perez
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezChris Perez has yet to give up a run in eight games with the Dodgers.
That shed an even brighter light on what happened hours later.

Brandon League, who regressed steadily from closer to setup man to mop-up man throughout last season, was the losing pitcher in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants.

Instead of optioning Rodriguez, the Dodgers could have designated League for assignment. It probably would have made more sense strictly from a pitching perspective, but that would have meant swallowing $15 million or so in salary, as it's doubtful he would have cleared waivers and accepted a minor league assignment.

It was a tad early for such a drastic move, but manager Don Mattingly didn't exactly give League a ringing vote of confidence after the game.

"He's one of our guys, so we try to keep helping him, and that's the way it is," Mattingly said. "He's one of our guys."

That's true. League is, at least for now, one of the Dodgers' guys. And he's not the only pitcher with a good arm who's not performing well at the moment. Closer Kenley Jansen has blown two of his past four save chances. The Dodgers are the best-paid bullpen in the National League, but they rank sixth in ERA and batting average against.

Jansen could only shrug his shoulders at some bad breaks in the ninth inning. Angel Pagan reached on a single that bounced off Jansen's foot. Brandon Belt, a left-handed hitter, slapped a double just inside third base. That's hard to do.

"He got lucky on that. What could I do?" Jansen said.

There are glimpses of the promise this bullpen holds. Chris Perez has his nasty slider back. He worked 1 1/3 scoreless innings and has yet to give up a run in eight games with the Dodgers. Chris Withrow and J.P. Howell continue to pitch well.

If Wilson can stay healthy and Jansen can harness his rejuvenated velocity more productively, this could wind up being the best bullpen in the majors. But for now, it's just an expensive bullpen that's slightly underperforming.

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.301 13 59 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 18
RBIA. Gonzalez 90
RD. Gordon 73
OPSY. Puig .882
WC. Kershaw 16
ERAC. Kershaw 1.73
SOC. Kershaw 194