Dodgers could really go with only one left-hander in their bullpen
Not the way you’re supposed to do it, of course. Goes against the unofficial manager’s handbook.
Teams like to have at least two lefties in their bullpen. One to possibly go through the order, one who may be mostly situational.
Alas, the Dodgers have a pretty full bullpen with only one left-hander -- Hong-Chih Kuo.
Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti has said he’d like to add a second lefty, but pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a month. And the possibility grows that Kuo might be the lonely left-hander.
"Could be," said Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly.
Mattingly made it clear, however, that he has zero interest in adding a second left-hander just for the sake of it.
"We’ll find the best arms, left or right," he said. "You hear about the lefties, and it’s nice to have that second lefty out there. It would be nice to have three [as] your best arms. But I’m looking for the best arms."
Mattingly said he’s witnessed teams having bullpen success without the traditional second lefty.
"We played against the Angels for years and [Angels Manager Mike] Scioscia hardly ever had a lefty," Mattingly said. "He kept righties who had good stuff. I want the guys with the best stuff, and the best chance of getting outs. Sometimes it’s lefties, sometimes it’s right."
Last season the Dodgers had Kuo and George Sherrill, or at least a facsimile of George Sherrill (2-2, 6.69 earned-run average).
The lone lefty could prove a greater concern this season should Jonathan Broxton not rebound and be able to close. If the Dodgers have to return to Kuo as their closer, that could potentially leave no middle-innings lefty available.
And, of course, there is always the fear that Kuo’s bionic elbow could break down for a fifth time.
Currently in the bullpen are Broxton, Kuo, Kenley Jensen, Ronald Belisario, Vicente Padilla, Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth. That’s a full seven.
The main in-house candidate to break in as a second lefty is Scott Elbert, whom Mattingly coached in the Arizona Fall League. Mattingly says Elbert has a shot at making the team.
"I think he does," Mattingly said. "He’s been up and down, on that yo-yo, back and forth, and never quite put it together. To me, his stuff plays. There’s no doubt about it. He has a power arm. He gets righties and lefties out. Seems durable and he’s not afraid. I like him."
Elbert missed much of last season, however, leaving his triple-A Albuquerque team for undisclosed personal reasons shortly after a quick stint with the Dodgers.
There’s something of a left-leaning aspect to the Dodgers this season. They have a left-handed-hitting-heavy lineup, no left fielder and no second left-hander in the bullpen.
-- Steve Dilbeck