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Bullpen shapes up nicely for Dodgers

Dodgers 'pen shaping up nicely

LOS ANGELES -- With injuries this season to relievers such as Cory Wade and Hong-Chih Kuo as well as the addition of new faces such as Will Ohman, Guillermo Mota and Ronald Belisario, the Dodgers are still developing definite roles for the bullpen.

Wade and Kuo figured to be the team's top two relievers, outside of closer Jonathan Broxton, but Wade suffered from shoulder soreness and had a trip to the disabled list while Kuo is currently on the disabled list with a strained left elbow.

As a result, the Dodgers haven't relied on just one eighth-inning setup man this season in front of the dominant Broxton, but it's worked out just fine.

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The Dodgers' 3.30 bullpen ERA is the second-best mark in the Majors behind the Mets' revamped bullpen that has a 3.15 ERA.

And, now, Wade is getting healthy, as evidenced by his two innings of scoreless relief on Saturday, and Belisario, who has a 3.38 ERA, has emerged as a viable late-innings reliever.

They figure to be the eighth-inning setup men as the Dodgers move into a rare two-game series with the D-backs that begins on Monday at Dodger Stadium.

"I'm not afraid of using either one of those guys," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "But we're not going to repeat Wade yet on back-to-back. But if everyone's rested, he's the guy we'd go to."

The Dodgers also have depth with two left-handers in their bullpen in Ohman and rookie Brent Leach, although Torre still isn't sure what Leach's role will be after being called up on Saturday.

"We're going to try and find that out," Torre said. "We'll put him in a situation where he has some room. He's a little inconsistent, but he has good upside."

As for Ohman, he's been a dependable left-hander out of the bullpen that has also had success against right-handed hitters. And as Torre noted, he's fit right in with his new club with his fun-loving personality.

"He's a character," Torre said. "You hate to say it, but he's a typical left-hander."

The Dodgers also have the comfort of having two long relievers in right-handers Ramon Troncoso and James McDonald, who was just replaced by Jeff Weaver in the rotation after struggling as a starter.

Troncoso, who has been solid in his role as the ground-ball-inducing pitcher, has a 1.08 ERA and hasn't been scored upon in his past 12 2/3 innings, including two scoreless innings on Sunday.

"I think with his last four outings, he's really done the job," Torre said. "He's valuable in that role."

The bullpen could figure to play a prominent role on Monday if left-hander Eric Stults struggles like he did in his last start when he lasted just 2 2/3 innings against the Giants on Wednesday.

But Stults pitched well against the D-backs in his first of the season when he allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings on April 11.

Pitching matchup
LAD: LHP Eric Stults (2-1, 5.50 ERA)
Stults didn't have it against the Giants at AT&T Park. He was battered around for five runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. With no single overpowering pitch, Stults relies on location and his mistakes get hit. Stults is 1-0 with a 6.35 ERA in two career appearances against the D-backs and pitched well against Arizona in his first of the season on April 11, when he allowed just one run over 5 1/3 innings.

ARI: LHP Doug Davis (2-3, 2.91 ERA)
Davis' outstanding start to the year has been somewhat overshadowed by teammate Dan Haren. Davis tossed seven shutout innings his last time out against the Cubs on Wednesday at Chase Field. The left-hander didn't look like he would be able to go seven after throwing a whopping 50 pitches. He was able, however to adjust and take advantage of the Cubs' hitters aggressiveness over the next several innings to hang around. Davis has thrown at least seven innings in three of his five starts and has gone eight innings twice, including an impressive 2-0 win over the Giants on April 18.

Tidbits
Torre said that he's not sure if Kuo will get an MRI on his strained left elbow but said that his injury doesn't seem to be career threatening despite the fact Kuo has already had elbow surgery four times. ... Sunday marked the first day fans at Dodger Stadium could vote for the 2009 All-Star Game. ... Sunday marked the biggest Little League parade of the season as the children at the game were also treated to an Andre Ethier batting practice jersey. Sesame Street's Elmo threw out the first pitch. ... Ethier hosted Carne Asada Sunday, presented by Cacique, after the game at the Loge Terrace at Dodger Stadium. Fans had a chance to meet Ethier and enjoy carne asada and a live mariachi band from Baldwin Park's Guadalajara Grill. ... Dodgers vice president/assistant general manager Kim Ng and team photographer Jon SooHoo will be honored Sunday night by the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• PRIME

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Tuesday: Dodgers (Jeff Weaver, 0-0, 0.00) vs. Diamondbacks (Max Scherzer, 0-2, 3.48), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Wednesday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 0-2, 5.46) vs. Nationals (TBD), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Thursday: Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 1-1, 3.93) vs. Nationals (TBD), 7:10 p.m. PT

Rhett Bollinger 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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