LOS ANGELES -- Any bullpen that closes out games with back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen is rock solid, but the Dodgers return most of the supporting pieces that made it arguably the top unit last year.They have young, live arms. Some already have World Series experience.
LOS ANGELES -- Any bullpen that closes out games with back-to-back National League Reliever of the Year Kenley Jansen is rock solid, but the Dodgers return most of the supporting pieces that made it arguably the top unit last year.
They have young, live arms. Some already have World Series experience. They just need to find a setup man, but that's turned into an annual event and management's track record is pretty good.
MLB.com is taking a look at the projected bullpen of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here's how the Dodgers might stack up:
BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Kenley Jansen, RHP
Pedro Baez, RHP
Scott Alexander, LHP
Tony Cingrani, LHP
Josh Fields, RHP
Thomas Stripling, RHP
Tom Koehler, RHP
Yimi Garcia, RHP
Jansen for sure, but there's more. Management hopes the addition of ground-ball specialist Alexander will help defray the loss of Brandon Morrow, who went from non-roster invitee with a history of health issues to a World Series workhorse who got closer money from the Cubs. Baez, who was the setup man until he lost the job to Morrow, is looking for redemption. Cingrani will back up Alexander since Luis Avilan was dealt in the Alexander trade and Tony Watson left via free agency. Fields, Stripling and Koehler fill out the bullpen with Garcia reportedly ready to go after missing a year because of Tommy John surgery. Journeyman lefty Edward Paredes was a very effective strike-thrower as a second-half callup after a decade in the Minor Leagues.
Setup is the mystery, as it was until Morrow emerged last season, as it was when Joe Blanton emerged the year before, and so on. Baez, Alexander and Cingrani are candidates, but just as likely is a committee based on matchups and whomever has the hot hand. Koehler is one of those under-the-radar acquisitions who showed better in relief late last year and could take the Morrow/Blanton route of a former starter thriving as a reliever. Not much has been said lately about Adam Liberatore, whose 2017 season was wasted with a forearm injury. When sound, he's very effective.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman often says that the bullpen is always a focus of his attention, because of its inherent volatility. That's why his staff is always on the lookout for former starters like Blanton and Morrow. The Dodgers will probably add another one or two as non-roster invitees, like Morrow was a year ago. As the season unfolds, there might be a temptation to ask Kenta Maeda to pitch relief after his postseason success in that role, but his contract was structured with incentives for starts and innings, so that hurdle would need to be cleared. For now, he's a starter. Julio Urias is coming off left shoulder surgery and shorter relief outings might allow him to ease back into action, with a return target around June. Like Urias, rookie Walker Buehler is considered a starter, but management was willing to have him pitch out of the bullpen in September.