Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Dodgers Report [Print without images]

Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Dodgers relievers aren't messing around

By Mark Saxon

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke have been dominant so far. Hyun-Jin Ryu and Josh Beckett have been solid. In a way, though, the most impressive pitching has come when those guys have left games.

The Dodgers’ bullpen is bordering on perfect so far, having pitched 13 scoreless innings. Dodgers relievers collectively have allowed one hit and that was an infield jam shot that led to a bad throw from Nick Punto. It easily could have been ruled an error. No other major-league team has allowed fewer than 10 hits.

The San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates never even sniffed a late rally.

Part of the credit goes to Dodgers’ starters, who have kept the load light and allowed manager Don Mattingly to match up his late-inning pitchers favorably. Dodgers’ relievers have pitched the fewest innings in the majors.

Part of the credit goes to Mattingly, who has called the right names at the right times. Good bullpens can make a manager look good, but a good manager puts his relievers in positions to succeed. Young lefty Paco Rodriguez, for example, has faced just two right-handed batters and he struck out all three lefties he faced.

Will it last? With 156 games left, the chances of the Dodgers’ bullpen finishing with a 0.00 ERA and allowing no inherited runners to score is approaching zero. But this group does have a chance to be among the best in the league, maybe at the top.

A lot of people thought it was an overpay when the Dodgers signed League to a three-year, $22.5 million deal last October. But the Dodgers had seen the impact he could have on their bullpen when he had a 0.40 ERA in his final 21 appearances of last season, allowing just eight hits in 22 1/3 innings.

Whether he closes or Kenley Jansen closes seems fairly immaterial. Together, they give the Dodgers two hard throwers, two brutally difficult pitchers to hit, in the final two innings. Ronald Belisario is no picnic either. The league hit .187 against him last year.

Rodriguez is pitching well enough to hold onto a roster spot. When the Dodgers traded Aaron Harang to acquire catcher Ramon Hernandez Saturday, Rodriguez’s success undoubtedly was part of the impetus. Had they not moved Harang, Rodriguez likely would have been sent down when the Dodgers activate Chad Billingsley Wednesday.

The only Dodgers reliever who has yet to pitch is Chris Capuano. Ted Lilly’s return from the disabled list will create another challenge as the team tries to sort out its roster. The way things are going right now, they’d be crazy to tamper with success.