Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Opening Day is in less than a week, but the Los Angeles Dodgers still have a few roster decisions to make.
On the position player side, their group is set with the news that Jason Heyward and James Outman are filling their final two spots. For the starting rotation, the battle between Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove is close to replace Tony Gonsolin.
And in the bullpen, there are two spots open with Daniel Hudson and Jimmy Nelson set to begin the season on the injured list. The relievers who are seemingly locks to fill the first six spots in the Dodgers bullpen are Evan Phillips, Yency Almonte, Shelby Miller, Brusdar Graterol, Alex Vesia and Caleb Ferguson.
After that group, the Dodgers have a few options, but none of them stand out as needing to be on the roster.
Candidates for Dodgers bullpen
Grove is in the battle for the final rotation spot, but if Pepiot beats him out, which seems likely, then the latter could find his way into the bullpen.
Grove has pitched to a 5.40 ERA this spring across 16.2 innings, but most of his struggles have come recently and he was impressing Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. Grove also has experience at the Major League level, posting a 4.60 ERA in 29.1 innings last season.
He projects as a swing man long term and his stuff could play up out of the bullpen, but the Dodgers may ultimately decide it’s more valuable to keep Grove starting games regularly in Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Andre Jackson is another who has impressed in Spring Training and his multi-inning ability would be valuable out of the bullpen. In 7.2 innings during Cactus League play, he holds a 1.17 ERA with 10 strikeouts.
Over his Major League career, Jackson owns a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings. Jackson has never been a highly-regarded prospect, and he seemed to be on the outside looking in of the Dodgers plans, but this could be just the opportunity he needs to prove himself.
He seems to have the inside edge to take one of the two spots, and at 26-years-old already, the Dodgers need to see what he can do rather than keeping him in Triple-A.
Phil Bickford became a mainstay in the Dodgers bullpen during the 2021 season, posting a 2.50 ERA across 50.1 innings. But like many middle relievers, that success was short-lived and he struggled for much of 2022, finishing with a 4.72 ERA in 61 innings.
This spring, he has pitched to a 5.68 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with three strikeouts in 6.1 innings.
He seems likely to get a spot on the roster just out of necessity and already being on the 40-man roster, but he will need to show flashes of his 2021 form, or else the club may decide to replace him quickly. Bickford is out of Minor League options.
Victor González is on the Dodgers 40-man roster as well, but he has become somewhat of an odd man out following a dominant showing during the 2020 season. In 2021, González only pitched 35.1 innings and he did not make an appearance in 2022 partly due to injuries.
During Spring Training this year, he owns a 10.38 ERA with. a 1.85 WHIP and five strikeouts in 4.1 innings. While there shouldn’t be too much stock put into limited Cactus League numbers, the poor results have some significance as González’s career seems to be on the downtrend.
It would be surprising if González opens the season with the Dodgers after only throwing 12.2 innings in 2022 and struggling this spring, but he could find his way back to the club at some point.
Matt Andriese, Tyler Cyr, Dylan Covey, Adam Kolarek, Bryan Hudson, Jake Reed, Nick Robertson, James Jones, Tayler Scott and Wander Suero could also be options to fill the bullpen spots. However, all of them have already been assigned to Minor League camp, which makes it unlikely any will ultimately earn the nod.
Of that group, Reed, Andriese and Kolarek would be the most likely options. Any of them could be added to the 40-man roster when Gavin Lux and Alex Reyes are placed on the 60-day injured list.
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