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Dodgers' bullpen struggling to regain form

Dodgers' bullpen struggling to regain form

Dodgers' bullpen struggling to regain form

SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers spent $22.5 million to re-sign closer Brandon League and he's lost his job after blowing four saves. Ronald Belisario has thrown more dugout tantrums than nasty sinkers. Matt Guerrier, in the last year of a three-year contract, didn't retire a batter Thursday night while allowing more earned runs (two) than starter Stephen Fife did in six full innings.

So, what's going on with the Dodgers' bullpen, which the club considered one of its strengths coming into the season?

Dodgers relievers have the most blown saves (15) and the most losses (17) in MLB, and their 4.29 ERA ranks 26th.

Kenley Jansen is the only right-handed reliever who has been relatively reliable for manager Don Mattingly, who has risked overexposing lefties J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez because they've been more efficient than most of his other choices.

The Dodgers are paying a heavy price for the miscalculation that let non-roster invitee Kevin Gregg walk away to eventually become the Chicago Cubs' closer. The Dodgers thought they had a surplus of relievers at the time and, with the uncertain health of Zack Grinke, Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly, kept Aaron Harang for the Opening Day roster instead of Gregg, only to trade Harang a week later for catcher Ramon Hernandez, who was designated for assignment this week.

Gregg had an out clause in his contract if he didn't make the Major League club. Peter Moylan had the same thing for June 1, and to avoid losing the right-hander, the Dodgers promoted Moylan with generally favorable results until the two-run homer he allowed Thursday night.

Chris Withrow showed glimpses in his brief callup with a high-90s fastball, although the lack of swings and misses indicates it lacks movement.

Injuries are only a limited excuse for the bullpen's problems. Of the 20 disabled-list injuries this year, the only relievers included are Scott Elbert (elbow surgeries) and Shawn Tolleson (back surgery).

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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