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Dodgers' bullpen picture is 'fuzzy,' says Roberts

Injuries, performance complicate original relief plans for LA
MLB.com @kengurnick

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Saturday conceded the club could open the season with seven relievers and not the eight he earlier said was the "benchmark."

A shoulder injury to Tom Koehler and lackluster game performances by some of the relievers who were expected to make the club has Roberts describing his bullpen as "fuzzy."

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on Saturday conceded the club could open the season with seven relievers and not the eight he earlier said was the "benchmark."

A shoulder injury to Tom Koehler and lackluster game performances by some of the relievers who were expected to make the club has Roberts describing his bullpen as "fuzzy."

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"Losing Tommy Koehler opened things up and created some opportunities and, to be quite honest, it's a little more fuzzy," said Roberts. "It's a good thing as far as opportunities. We've got time to continue to evaluate whether we carry seven or we carry eight. And there are opportunities for guys to step up and pitch well and show they deserve the opportunity."

Koehler was signed as a free agent to pick up innings after Brandon Morrow left as a free agent. If the Dodgers go with seven relievers, it would open a spot for another bench player, such as Kyle Farmer or an extra outfielder (Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Trayce Thompson).

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Closer Kenley Jansen, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Ross Stripling and Scott Alexander should form the bulk of the bullpen. The fuzzy part comes from competition among Pedro Baez, Adam Liberatore, Yimi Garcia, Wilmer Font, J.T. Chargois and Pat Venditte. Font is out of options, which helps him; Venditte is a non-roster invitee, which hurts him.

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Bullpen results from Saturday's 5-2 loss to the White Sox gave Roberts reason for optimism. Jansen, Baez, Chargois and Alexander each pitched a scoreless inning. Jansen had to cover first base, testing the hamstring that delayed his first Cactus League game, but he said he's hopeful it won't tighten.

"That was a good test," Jansen said.

Baez, who has allowed 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings, was called for a pair of balks. Chargois, claimed from the Twins at the start of Spring Training, has allowed only one run in five innings. Alexander pitched around a walk, his fifth in 5 2/3 innings.

"Relievers were much sharper," said Roberts. "Kenley got what he wanted out of the outing. Petey, he had the balks, but I really think his pitches were considerably better than they've been. Chargois, by far the best he's thrown for us. His direction to the plate was very good. Scott, the walk to the lefty wasn't ideal, but [he got] the swing and miss with the slider and there weren't as many scuds."

Jansen's cutter velocity was 90-92, which he attributed to typical Spring Training blahs.

"Today, not as sharp as the first one, but the two-seam worked well," said Jansen. "Positive results, all you have to care about. Adrenaline not there today, not going to lie. We all know it's Spring Training. I know it's going to be there Opening Day. Nothing to worry about it."

Jansen said he will have a four-out appearance on Thursday, then pitch in back-to-back games Sunday and Monday in the Freeway Series against the Angels.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers