Shaikin: Who needs Craig Kimbrel? For Dodgers, it’s always a game of next reliever up

The Dodgers dropped one of the greatest relief pitchers in baseball history from their roster Tuesday. Los Angeles responded with a shrug.

When Dodgers manager Dave Roberts met with reporters ahead of the National League Division Series opener against the San Diego Padres, the first question wasn’t about eight-time All-Star Craig Kimbrel. Neither the second nor the third nor the fourth question.

Granted, the breaking news wasn’t shocking. With 12 games remaining in the regular season, the Dodgers had told Kimbrel that he would not close anymore. But Tuesday’s nonchalant response was a tribute to a decade of Dodgers excellence, not just on the field but in the front office as well.

“Common on a lot of teams,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said ahead of the Dodgers’ 5-3 win over the Padres on Tuesday, “you lose a man and the thought is probably, ‘Oh, how are we doing? to fill that gap?’

“It’s never been like this here.”

In many teams, the high-paid star is often given too long a leash, either because of his salary or because the team cannot afford to replace him, whether because of a meager wallet or meager depth.

The Dodgers don’t “lean” anything. They will pay $42 million this season to five aides not on their NLDS list. The Oakland Athletics pledged $48 million for their opening-day roster.

The Dodgers are paying Kimbrel and David Price $16 million each this season. The total of $32 million is more than the $23 million they will pay the nine volunteers on their NLDS list.

The Dodgers didn’t need Kimbrel when they traded for him at the end of spring training. The Chicago White Sox, with one closer too many and one outfielder short, floated the idea of ​​swapping the salary by trading him for Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers agreed to trade AJ Pollock.

If it worked out with Kimbrel, great. If not, the Dodgers had options. Under Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers always have options.

When the NLDS started, the Dodgers didn’t have close contact. Blake Treinen is on the list, but he hasn’t served since September 5, and he’s served two innings since April 14. So the Dodgers also don’t have a defined setup man.

You have no worries either. They led the NL in bullpen earned run average. Fourteen months after the Baltimore Orioles’ 110 loss to the unheralded Evan Phillips, Tuesday’s Dodgers press release included this line: “Evan Phillips was the backbone of the bullpen.”

Dodgers relief pitcher Evan Phillips reacts after San Diego Padres Wil Myers hit a ground ball in a doubles play.

Dodgers relief pitcher Evan Phillips reacts after the San Diego Padres’ Wil Myers hit a ground ball in a doubles game during the sixth inning of Game 1 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

On Tuesday, when Juan Soto and Manny Machado were due for the third time, Phillips was the first man out of the bullpen. Soto and Machado each reached base, but Phillips still pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

Alex Vesia managed a goalless seventh place, and Vesia and Brusdar Graterol combined for a goalless eighth place. Chris Martin earned the save with a scoreless ninth place finish.

This isn’t just about the money. Phillips, Vesia and Graterol all make $720,000 this season. Two came commercially, one on waiver, none through free agencies. You may see any or all three in the ninth inning of this series.

Dustin May and Andrew Heaney are professional starters. Yency Almonte was expelled from the Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers acquired Chris Martin for a utilityman and signed Tommy Kahnle while rehabilitating from Tommy John surgery.

“I just don’t think teams can match our arm talent,” Roberts said.

“Yeah, we don’t have that particular seamstress, but… [we have] lots of good players who just aren’t scared of the moment. I trust them all. Yeah, it’s not standard or whatever conventional, but I’m confident in who we’re going to hit out there in the ninth inning.

Nothing inspires confidence like success, and it’s how the Dodgers won the World Series two years ago. Five pitchers made a save in their championship run, which saw Kenley Jansen carefully manage amid his struggles.

“I don’t think it’s an uncertainty for us,” said Clayton Kershaw, who starts Wednesday for the Dodgers. “I think we’re just doing the jobs we’re supposed to be doing. We have a lot of people who can do a lot of jobs really well.”

There are no guarantees with an All-Star degree, or even a reigning Cy Young honoree. The latter would be Robbie Ray, who the Seattle Mariners have asked to retire the last hitter of their American League Division Series opener Tuesday. Ray gave up a walkoff home run and the Houston Astros danced away.

For the Dodgers, Tuesday’s big dance began with nine relief arms. None of them had 394 career saves. The one with nine career saves got the ninth and the save.

https://www.latimes.com/sports/dodgers/story/2022-10-11/dodgers-vs-padres-game-1-nlds-evan-phillips-chris-martin Shaikin: Who needs Craig Kimbrel? For Dodgers, it’s always a game of next reliever up

Emma Bowman

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