Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was expected to be a strength of the team in 2023, but so far it has been anything but that.
Dodgers relief pitchers have thrown 275 innings this year, posting a 5.01 ERA and 4.25 FIP. Only the Oakland Athletics’ bullpen has been worse at run prevention with a team ERA of 5.51.
Opponents are also batting .256 off Dodgers relievers, which is the second-highest mark, only slightly behind the Washington Nationals that have allowed a .257 average.
Throughout June, the results have been even worse. The Dodgers’ 6.57 bullpen ERA is the highest mark in baseball and they have more blown saves (three) than converted opportunities (two).
With those results, the Dodgers relief pitchers held meetings recently to address what their issues have been. “But it’s nothing crazy,” Caleb Ferguson said of the discussions.
“There was not crazy talks, it was more opening the floor and let’s talk about how everybody is feeling. When you’re trying to get through the course of 162 games, things can go haywire sometimes. So just getting everybody back together and reminding them as a group we’re really good. I think it’s been good.”
The Dodgers bullpen may need someone to step up into a leadership role, but there is no clear choice. All of their active relievers are journeymen-type pitchers, or young and inexperienced.
Lacking a clear leader is something that may have caused some issues for the group and led to prolonged struggles.
“I think in years past with some of the veteran leadership we’ve had in the bullpen, like David Price and the names go on and on, having those guys in the ‘pen were relaxing factors that would just keep everybody’s minds at ease and reassure that us everything is going to get rolling in the right direction,” Evan Phillips said.
“Even through the struggles in the past couple years. So not having that voice down there has really forced a lot of open communication. I think the last week or so has been a great stepping stone for all of us.
“I think each of us have found our voice and been able to communicate with each other to help each other and feed off each other.”
The meeting seemed to have a positive result as the Dodgers bullpen rebounded with 11 scoreless innings against the Los Angeles Angels, giving up just two hits in the process.
Phillips believes the bullpen can “totally” build on those results with a boost in confidence from the Freeway Series that in turn will help create some momentum.
“You’ve got to see it to believe it kind of thing,” Phillips said. “Success breeds confidence. I strongly believe our group, the more we get to see it and get opportunities to do it, the more we’re going to benefit down the road.”
The results in Anaheim also created some more trust for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts in the bullpen’s ability to turn their season around and get back on track.
“Absolutely. But more importantly, I think it gives them the confidence,” Roberts said. “We never debated the arm talent and what these guys have done, but certainly performance the last couple nights has been the level that we expect.
“It’s something for us to build on. We’ve got an off day and we’re going to have a fun series this weekend.”
Caleb Ferguson: Dodgers bullpen has been ‘grinding’
Ferguson dealt with a few tough outings in a row where he gave up seven runs over four games, but he has now rebounded with five straight scoreless appearances.
“It’s been huge, for sure,” Ferguson said. “For Kersh to come in and be the stopper for us first game here, I think set the tone. It’s been good.”
While the results didn’t go his way for a poor stretch, as it has for much of the bullpen, Ferguson credited them for continuing to work through it to get back on track.
“Guys have been grinding,” Ferguson said. “I don’t really think it’s been as far off as what it looks. Just a couple better pitches here and couple better pitches there, and things are a lot different. Kudos to everybody for keeping their head down, keep grinding and continuing to get through a rough patch.”
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