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Dodgers' bullpen does little to ensure continuity or confidence

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly says he would like to stick with a plan, but his faith in Brandon League as the closer is clearly waning. However, League is far from the only reliever struggling.

June 01, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Dodgers closer Brandon League blew his second save in four tries Friday night against Colorado.
Dodgers closer Brandon League blew his second save in four tries Friday… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )

DENVERDon Mattingly's best-case scenario for his bullpen Saturday had him calling in a pitcher to protect a last-inning lead.

Asked who that pitcher might be, Mattingly hesitated.

"The closer," he said before the Dodgers' 7-6, 10-inning loss.

The Dodgers manager wasn't being cheeky, he was being honest. After watching Brandon League blow his second save in four tries Friday, Mattingly's confidence in the right-hander was clearing waning.

But the next-best candidate, hard-throwing Kenley Jansen, is a pitcher Mattingly prefers to use in crucial situations in the seventh or eight innings — a strategy he thinks gives him a better chance to get to the ninth with a lead.

"I don't want to be in between," he said. "But I want to try to create some continuity out there. The bullpen, to me, it's been more solid lately. I want to try to keep roles established until somebody really says, 'I shouldn't be here.'"

Mattingly didn't get a chance to use League or Jansen on Saturday after Ronald Belisario gave up a two-run seventh-inning lead in the span of six pitches on a single by Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Cuddyer's home run.

That gave the Dodgers' bullpen 11 blown saves in 25 chances. And when Matt Guerrier gave up the winning run in the 10th inning, it gave the Dodgers a big-league worst 14 bullpen losses, while the relievers' 4.24 earned-run average is 12th in the 15-team National League.

Greinke's struggles continue

Zack Greinke had his third straight rough outing, giving up four runs on nine hits in 51/3 innings. In his two previous starts, he didn't get an out past the fourth inning, allowing 11 runs, nine of them earned, on 19 hits.

Greinke won his first game this season, but in his second game, he fractured his left clavicle during a brawl in San Diego, missing a month. He hasn't been the same pitcher since quickly coming back.

"I haven't pitched a whole lot this year. I have to get comfortable out there," said Greinke, who threw a season-high 108 pitches Saturday, including 33 in the Rockies' three-run fifth inning. "I've got to make adjustments and pitch better from here on out.

"I feel 100%. There hasn't been anything holding me back. So I should be able to make better pitches if that's the case."

Greinke was the Dodgers' prize free-agent catch this winter, signing a six-year, $147-million contract. But he was hampered by nagging injuries in spring training, then went on the disabled list 11 innings into the regular season.

"He's had kind of a rough start to his Dodgers career," Mattingly said.

Short hops

Catcher A.J. Ellis, trying to avoid the DL with a strained muscle in his side, said he felt good after taking 15 swings in the batting cage under the watchful eye of trainer Sue Falsone…. Tim Federowicz, who started in Ellis' place, had two hits, including his first big-league homer…. Hanley Ramirez made his second rehab start for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, as the designated hitter and not at shortstop.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

twitter.com/ @kbaxter11

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