Previewing Dodgers' bullpen roles ahead of 2024 season

January 26th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio’s Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

LOS ANGELES -- With the Dodgers starting the season with two games in Seoul, South Korea, against the Padres, they’re set to arrive at Camelback Ranch in two weeks to prepare for the much-anticipated 2024 season.

Before that happens, however, we’ll continue to take an in-depth, position-by-position look at the Dodgers and how they’ll look entering the season. We’ll wrap up our spring previews by taking a look at the bullpen.

The guys at the top: Caleb Ferguson, Brusdar Graterol, Joe Kelly, Evan Phillips
Despite some struggles in the middle of the season, the bullpen was a strength for the Dodgers in 2023, particularly in the postseason, keeping Los Angeles in games after the collapse of the starting pitching. 

Ferguson took a step in the right direction in 2023, but was inconsistent with his production. He also struggled to come through in the ninth inning when needed. Graterol, on the other hand, seemed to thrive in every situation last season, firmly establishing himself with one of the strongest showings by a bullpen arm in the Majors last season with a 1.20 ERA.

Kelly is back with the Dodgers after he was acquired from the White Sox at the Deadline. He signed a one-year deal this winter to stay in Los Angeles. The veteran right-hander has had success in a Dodgers uniform, but has struggled to stay healthy. He’s a slow starter most years, so it’ll be interesting to see how he comes into Spring Training. When healthy, Kelly will be a big part of the Dodgers’ bullpen.

Then there’s Phillips, who was in the “fireman” role for the Dodgers over the past two seasons, but stepped in as the team’s closer later in the year. His role moving forward remains to be seen, but there’s an argument to be made that he’s most valuable pitching in the middle innings, rather than being the designated closer.

Last season, the Dodgers also benefited from having guys like Yency Almonte and Ryan Brasier in the middle innings, but Almonte was traded to the Cubs in January and Brasier is a free agent. The Dodgers will continue to monitor the relief pitching market. They also seem to always find good options on Minor League deals with invites to spring camp.

The next batch of arms: Michael Grove, J.P. Feyereisen, Blake Treinen, Ricky Vanasco, Gus Varland
Grove was also featured on our starting pitching preview, but there’s a realistic chance that the right-hander helps out at the big league level as a reliever in 2024. Grove has been a starter in his career, including with the Dodgers, but he got some experience coming out of the bullpen in ‘24. Evaluators have long believed that Grove’s stuff would play up in relief rather than as a starter. He saw an increase in velocity in relief last season.

Feyereisen and Treinen will be key pieces in 2024. Treinen was the Dodgers’ most important reliever for a few seasons, but injuries have kept him off the field most of the last two seasons. Treinen is coming off a significant right shoulder injury, so it’ll be interesting to see how he bounces back from that, particularly his velocity. He should be healthy going into spring, but the Dodgers will always be cautious.

The same goes for Feyereisen, who was lights out with the Rays in 2022, not allowing an earned run over 24 1/3 innings. Feyereisen missed the ‘23 season, but is expected to contribute this season. His progress will also be something to monitor during the spring.