Saturday, March 12, 2011
5 Dodger Questions Before Opening Day: Is the Bullpen Ready to Rumble?
Well it's hard to say whether or not the Bullpen is ready to rumble, because it's impossible to predict who exactly is going to make it in the Bullpen. The Dodgers will probably have a 7 man Bullpen to start the season, so if I was to make early guesses about who will start the season, I'd say:
Closer - Jonathon Broxton
Set up- Hong-Chih-Kuo
RHP - Kenley Jansen
RHP - Matt Guerrier
RHP - Tim Redding
LHP - Ron Mahay
Swingman - Blake Hawksworth
When Vicente Padilla is healthy again, I expect him to take Redding's spot in the 'pen, which also makes the pen a whole lot better. Between Broxton, Kuo, Jansen, Padilla, and Guerrier, you've got 5 guys who you can confidently give the ball to and expect consistently good results. Sure, Broxton didn't end last year very well, but that was more of a Joe Torre thought he was a starter-thing than a confidence thing. I fully expect Broxton to return to greatness next year in the same way that Chad Billingsley did last year, after his awful 2nd half of 2009. Kuo can't go more than three days in a row because of his elbow, but if nothing else, the dude can flip a bat, and Jansen is very similar to Kuo in that he's a power arm who attacks hitters with a great fastball. His secondary pitches need work, which hopefully won't be an issue by the end of Spring Training, and if they are, I could see him being optioned to AAA to get those fixed up. Padilla has shown success as a starter, and should be great as a reliever. He's also got the ability to go multiple innings or multiple days, depending on what's needed of him. Guerrier isn't a power arm by any means, he induces a lot of groundballs. But the Infield looks strong defensively with Loney-Uribe-Furcal-Blake, so Guerrier will be a good middle-relief type of guy. He can pitch a ton of innings too, as he has shown over his career.
All four of those guys, Broxton, Kuo, Jansen, or Padilla can capably close, and while Guerrier can't close, he's more than capable of a set-up guy. Ron Mahay will likely be the lefty specialist, which is good because he's downright terrible against Right-Handed-Batting. Although his spring has been pretty bad so far, to say the least, I think he winds up getting a spot because the Dodgers are going to need a second lefty besides Kuo, and Scott Elbert's control issues will get him killed in the Big Leagues, even as a lefty specialist. Hawksworth will round out the bullpen as a swingman type, and his greatest strength will be not being Ryan Theriot, which is important and worthwhile for the Dodgers. Admittedly, I don't know much about Hawksworth. The only time I've seen him pitch is when the Dodgers shelled him last year, but from what I understand, he was a fairly highly touted prospect, and that he's been better in the bullpen than as a starter over his major league career. If he's solid, he'll be more than enough for this team.
Should any of these guys get hurt (such as Padilla), there's depth in the minors as well. Ramon Troncoso, Jon Link, the previously mentioned Scott Elbert, and Travis Schlichting are all capable arms that will be hiding in AAA this year, as well as Ronald Belisario, if he can ever get into the United States. The Bullpen, on paper, looks like it will return to the 2008 and 2009 levels of elite-ness, rather than be below average like it was last year. It does appear to be ready to rumble.