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The rising of Mike MacDougal: Feel free to breathe

August 6, 2011 |  2:11 pm

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Mike MacDougal. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire When Mike MacDougal comes into a game, how do you feel?

Confident or uncertain? Assured or plain nervous?

As numbers go, he can put up a couple of pretty good ones: 2.01 earned-run average, one home run in 40 1/3 innings.

Numbers, of course, can be tricky things with relievers. And he can also claim these: 1.44 walks plus hits per inning pitched, 21 walks, 27 strikeouts (1.29 strikeouts to walks).

Maybe you can get by with these number if it’s middle relief, but with Jonathan Broxton and Kenley Jansen on the disabled list and Hong-Chih Kuo struggling, MacDougal is frequently used as the setup guy in the eighth. His status has almost been elevated by default.

It’s not that he’s been awful, but just shaky enough to inspire something less than confidence. Like constant unease.

MacDougal, 34, is second on the team to Matt Guerrier in appearances, yet pitches better with rest. With no rest between appearances, opponents are batting .308; with two days' rest, .214.

And he certainly is a pitcher who needs to stay ahead in the count. When he’s ahead, opponents are batting .196 against him; when behind, they’re at .333.

A MacDougal used on consecutive days, falling behind in the count, is a reliever who needs a very short leash.

Then maybe you could feel better. Other than feeling like you just have to hold your breath.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Mike MacDougal. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire