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League declares Dodgers 'team to beat' in 2013

League declares Dodgers 'team to beat' in 2013

League declares Dodgers 'team to beat' in 2013
LOS ANGELES -- While the Giants paraded through the streets of San Francisco to celebrate their 2012 World Series championship on Wednesday, right-handed reliever Brandon League celebrated his new three-year contract by declaring his Dodgers the favorites to dethrone the Giants and win the National League West in 2013.

"We are going to be the team to beat next year," said League, re-signed to a three-year, $22.5 million contract on Tuesday.

"The Giants had a great year, and they won the games they needed to win. But in 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers will be the team everyone wants to beat or tries to beat. We'll be looking over our shoulders for teams chasing us. This year, it was vice versa."

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Bold words, considering the Giants have been World Series champions two of the last three years, while the Dodgers haven't won a World Series since 1988, when League was 5 years old. But confidence is a trait every closer needs, and that's the role general manager Ned Colletti said League would be given.

"I don't feel being labeled [closer] is important," League said. "From Day 1, my job is to help the club win any way I can, in the fifth inning or the ninth. I feel comfortable in the ninth inning, and I think I showed that the last month."

Nonetheless, through his job and words, League knows there will be expectations, and he said he thrives on that.

"I'd rather be on a club that's expected to win," League said. "To have a target on our backs next year, we welcome it. Wouldn't want it any other way."

The 29-year-old League earned the rich contract and the closer job that comes with it by going a perfect 6-for-6 in save opportunities after losing the closer job in Seattle and being dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline for Minor Leaguers Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom.

At the time of the trade, League was added as a live but struggling arm to help get games to the ninth inning for Kenley Jansen, who had inherited the closer job from Javy Guerra. But Jansen was forced to the disabled list with an irregular heartbeat and League, having worked out a mechanical flaw in his delivery with coaches Rick Honeycutt and Ken Howell, took over. He finished the season with scoreless relief in 20 of his last 21 appearances, allowing one run and eight hits over 22 1/3 innings. Overall with the Dodgers, League went 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA in 48 games.

"The way it worked out, I couldn't have imagined it the way it did," League said. "Coming into the season as a closer, losing the job, I told myself the only way to turn the season around was if I got traded and made a playoff push, and it happened."

League said re-signing with the Dodgers was a no-brainer, even if it meant forgoing the open market as a free agent. The Dodgers had exclusive negotiating rights until 9 p.m. PT on Friday, but League said the Dodgers were "No. 1 on my list" and "it made absolutely no sense" to test the market.

"I told a lot of people, including my wife and agent, that from Day 1 I could see myself being here a very long time," League said. "It was a mutual feeling for player and club and just a matter of time to get something done. It's a winning organization, it's close to home [San Diego], I love playing for [manager] Donnie [Mattingly] and I get along well with all of my teammates."

League said there will be no friction with his predecessors in the closer role, Jansen and Guerra.

"We have a really tight group -- everyone is supportive of everyone, no matter what our roles in the bullpen," League said. "You can't ask for a better scenario when you have multiple closers. And [Ronald] Belisario closed a couple games and was lights-out in the eighth inning. I hope the Dodgers bring back [free-agent swingman] Jamey Wright because he was a huge part, a veteran guy who kept things in line. With Randy Choate, Paco Rodriguez, Scott Elbert, it's a tough bullpen."

League is a seven-year veteran and was an All-Star for the Mariners in 2011, when he recorded 37 saves. He earned $5 million this past season.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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