Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
The Los Angeles Dodgers suffered the third walk-off loss of their road trip on Friday when Kyle Schwarber blasted a home run off Caleb Ferguson in the ninth inning.
While that would normally be a loss to just turn the page on, it highlighted a larger problem in the recent struggles by the Dodgers bullpen and Ferguson in particular.
The southpaw worked his way into a high-leverage role as one of the Dodgers’ most effective relievers, but he has now allowed runs in three consecutive games, and four of his last five.
Ferguson has taken the loss in his two most recent appearances, which includes giving up a two-run lead in the ninth inning on Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts believes his reliever was the victim of some bad luck on Friday, via SportsNet LA:
“For me, honestly, I thought Caleb threw the ball extremely well tonight. The fastball was in the zone, the life to it, the conviction behind it. It wasn’t a terrible pitch to Schwarber. Down and away, and it was a good piece of hitting. That’s baseball. So for me, it hurts, certainly for us, for Caleb, given his last outing prior. But it’s something I’ll bet on as far as how it went down tonight.”
Over that stretch of five appearances, Ferguson has seen his ERA balloon from 0.98 to 3.68, and opponents have gone from hitting .205 against him at the start of May to .247 just over one month later. In addition, Ferguson’s WHIP has risen from 0.84 to 1.41 over the last 30 days.
Still, Roberts has faith in Ferguson to get back on track and continue pitching in a high-leverage role:
“We had a little chat, but it was more of very positive and appreciating the ultimate results on both those outings were similar, but how he went about it was completely different. So I just assured him that’s what I’m looking for. He wants to be a guy that pitches in leverage for us. Arm talent is there, and how he responds to things like this is a tell. I feel really good about it going forward.”
“He’s frustrated. You never want to get walked-off, but that potential comes with pitching late in games. Like I said, I like the way he threw the baseball tonight. That’s one pitch we’d like to have back, but at times you’ve got to give the hitter credit. Kyle put a good swing on it.”
Ferguson has proven to be an effective relief pitcher throughout his career, and he even showed it for most of this season before his recent struggles.
The Dodgers need him to get back to that point with their pitching issues, but volatility is also the nature of relievers.
Still, the 26-year-old will continue to pitch in important innings, but addressing the bullpen may be a priority at the trade deadline, regardless of Ferguson’s ability to bounce back.
What will Dodgers do if Caleb Ferguson continues to struggle?
If Ferguson is unable to get back on track soon, he may benefit from a stint at Triple-A Oklahoma City or a stay on the 15-day injured list to reset and address any potential issues with mechanics.
With Alex Vesia and Victor González already on the roster, the Dodgers would not necessarily need to call up a left-hander to replace Ferguson, but Justin Bruihl may be their best option. Other Minor League arms on the 40-man roster include Gavin Stone, Ricky Vanasco and Andre Jackson.
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