The Dodgers finally cut off the Band-Aid, but they still have to treat the underlying femoral injury.
After an up-and-down (mostly) down season, former superstar closer Craig Kimbrel was relieved of his role on Friday, with manager Dave Roberts making a move that left the veteran righty sporting a 4.07 ERA and just 22 saves. it felt inevitable. 27 opportunities.
Who replaces Kimbrel has suddenly become among the biggest questions facing the Dodgers, with the uncertainty of the ninth at the top of their postseason checklist.
For now, Roberts said it will be a situation closer to the commission. Each night, save opportunities will be determined by matchups and game flow.
For a team that still ranks second in the majors in relief ERA — even after Kimbrel’s extended absences — that will present several interesting options to consider as October approaches.
“I think for us, it’s the same with him as we do with all of our guys as far as putting them in the best position to come out,” Roberts said of Kimbrel and the bullpen in general. “That’s how I approach every break.”
Here’s a look at all of the Dodgers’ ninth-round picks (in no particular order).
2022 season: 1.24 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, two saves
Career saves: Three
The most obvious candidate to succeed Kimbrel at closer might appear to be Phillips, the right-handed pitcher who has flourished in his first full season with the Dodgers.
However, saving the 28-year-old for the ninth innings could be costly early in the games.
In the absence of other significant factors this year, Phillips has emerged as the Dodgers’ top man. Whenever the heart of an opposing command comes up late in a game, Phillips is called upon. Whenever another pitcher gets into a potentially disastrous last ditch rush, Phillips is called upon.
Several times this year, Phillips was called upon for save opportunities in the ninth, sometimes on nights when Kimbrel was unavailable for rest reasons.
However, his value in the role of setter/firefighter – and in the games, almost certainly will continue – is incalculable.
So, while Roberts said Friday that he won’t miss the ninth inning, and while there may be nights when Phillips makes the most sense for the final three outings, it’s hard to imagine that The Dodgers will pass him if the milestones come early. in games.
2022 season: 2.96 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, three saves
Career saves: Three (one more in season)
If anyone in the Dodgers bullpen has the kind of raw stuff often associated with a dominant ninth, it’s Graterol.
Possessing a triple-digit fastball and steadily improving, the 24-year-old righty has been projected as a potential future closer since the Dodgers acquired him from the Minnesota Twins prior to the 2020 season.
After some controversial bouts, Graterol seemed to finally be making strides before missing nearly a month with a shoulder injury, which he finally returned from earlier this week.
While Graterol still doesn’t strike out nearly as much as his electric arsenal suggests (his career high 22.4% strikeout rate is below league average this year), he was beginning to find other forms of success before his injury.
In 19 appearances between June 8 and August 28, he had a 0.89 ERA, a .171 batting average against and 18 strikeouts for no walks.
He also has a promising October record, with a career-high 2.04 ERA in 18 outings — including the save to clinch the Dodgers’ wild-card series against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2020. .
2022 season: 2.26 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, one save
Career saves: Two
On nights when a lineup of left-handed hitters is in the ninth, Vesia could offer the most attractive option for the Dodgers.
Acquired from the Miami Marlins before the start of last season, Vesia has emerged as the Dodgers’ top southpaw, using a deceptive fastball-slider combination to send the best strikeout rate in the Dodgers’ bullpen.
Like Phillips, there are times when he might be more valuable earlier in games, when a left-to-left matchup would make the most sense.
However, the fiery 26-year-old certainly has the kind of high energy that could lead to a ninth victory.
2022 season: 4.70 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 0 saves (in eight games)
Career saves: Four
After missing most of the season due to the residual effects of Tommy John surgery, Kahnle finally returned to the Dodgers’ active roster this week – this time, he and the team are hoping for good.
An eight-year ALCS veteran with the New York Yankees in 2017 and 2019 — including a double-double in the 2017 postseason — Kahnle has the kind of experience few others in the bullpen have. Dodgers can match.
Another advantage: He has weapons to throw to hitters on both sides of the plate, thanks to a bad changeup that this year – albeit with a small sample size – has a near 40% strikeout rate and just a .056 average against.
2022 season: 1.80 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, 0 saves (in five games)
Career record: 79
A former All-Star closer with the Oakland A’s, Treinen might be the most natural fit to catch in the ninth for the Dodgers — if only he were healthy.
The right-hander has missed most of the season with an ailing shoulder that continues to give him problems. After briefly returning from a partially torn shoulder capsule earlier this month, Treinen has been sidelined yet again with continued discomfort. He’s already missed one targeted return date this week, and is no guarantee he’ll be ready to start games.
The Dodgers haven’t given up hope that he’ll return — and immediately rediscover the kind of dominance that could make him their best reliever in 2021 — but given his season so far, it will be something the team prioritizes. see to truly believe. .
Outside of these five arms, there are a few other names to consider for the Dodgers.
Right-hander Chris Martin has been called up for several saves over the past month, and has been generally good with the Dodgers since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs ahead of the trade deadline — he has 1 in 21 games in Los Angeles. Has a 71 ERA. . He also has playoff experience over the last three seasons from his time with the Atlanta Braves.
Left-hander Caleb Ferguson has performed well in his return from Tommy John surgery this year with a 1.97 ERA in 33 games, though he hasn’t hit the same level of dominance he did before the surgery.
Right-hander Yency Almonte had a surprise season — a 1.15 ERA in 28 games — before going down with a shoulder injury in early August. He is currently on a rehab assignment and is close to returning, although it remains to be seen how quickly he will resume playing in senior roles when he returns.
Starting pitchers Andrew Heaney and Dustin May could offer some outside-the-box alternatives given the Dodgers’ increased starting rotation and their high strikeout rates this year. However, they are more likely to be asked to leave the bullpen early in the game or in the middle innings.
After all, Kimbrel is still on the team, and Roberts was careful not to completely rule out the possibility that he’ll get an opportunity to reclaim his spot in the ninth round.
However, after so much turmoil this season, it seems unlikely that, even with a perfect finish to the regular season, Kimbrel will be able to earn enough stock to be entrusted with backup possibilities in the postseason.