Is Brandon League redeeming himself?

May, 6, 2014
May 6
10:00
AM PT
WASHINGTON -- Could Brandon League follow Juan Uribe’s path back into Dodgers fans hearts?

Barely more than a year ago, Uribe was the focus of the faithful’s wrath after the third baseman struggled through the first two seasons of his three-year contract, only to become a key contributor as last season developed. He parlayed that into a fresh two-year deal and now is one of the Dodgers’ stalwarts and a fan favorite.

League signed a three-year deal (for $22.5 million) as well, and gradually worked his way down the depth-chart ladder last season, from closer to setup man to mop-up pitcher. There was speculation earlier this season the Dodgers might simply release League to make room for one of their younger relievers.

But he appears to have steered his career back into the proper lane.

League has held opponents scoreless in his past eight appearances. He has been able to keep the ball down in the strike zone and cut down on giving up home runs. The results are back to his career norms.

After a 1.55 WHIP last season, he had a 1.04 WHIP this year entering Monday's game. After a 4.93 FIP (fielding independent pitching, on an ERA scale), he had a 2.89 FIP this year.

So does that mean fans will cheer him the next time the bullpen doors open and he comes jogging in?

He doubts it.

“Only time will tell that, right? I think 2013 is still fresh in everyone’s minds but mine,” League said. “This spring I said I’ve put it behind me and I just want to prove to myself that was an off year. All I can do is run out there and pitch well regardless of the results.”

League allowed eight home runs last year, tied for the most in his career. Aside from that, some of his teammates saw a pitcher who was working against the tide of bad luck -- something that can happen to a reliever, especially one whose entire body of work in a season adds up to fewer than 55 innings.

“The thing is he showed up every day. I almost felt like telling him to take a break, but he would never take a break. He was pushing through it,” Dodgers reliever J.P. Howell said. “He’s one of those guys who persevered. It’s tough, because you see the nasty stuff.

“I don’t know how many times I saw him give up three cheap hits and a run last year. It was pretty amazing the weak contact that would be made off him and what would happen.”

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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