Brandon League has had an interesting 2012 season. He began as the Seattle Mariners’ incumbent closer, coming off an All-Star season in which he recorded a career-high 37 saves.
The right-hander converted his first five save opportunities out of the Seattle ‘pen this year, then blew four of his next eight chances and lost the job in May to a rotating committee that finally settled on Tom Wilhelmsen. From then on League pitched the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th innings for the Mariners, including a couple save situations (he went 0-for-2).
That’s why League’s numbers weren’t eye-popping when the Dodgers announced they acquired him Monday night for Single-A outfielder Leon Landry and Double-A pitcher Logan Bawcom. League has an 0-5 record, a 3.63 earned-run average, nine saves in 46 games and 27 strikeouts in 44.2 innings –a 5.4 strikeouts/9 innings ratio.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly remembered that League had “dirty” stuff when he opposed the Yankees; League pitched his first six seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays from 2004-09.
“It’s 96, 97, it’s down,” Mattingly said. “This guy’s got a good arm.”
More recently, general manager Ned Colletti said the Dodgers have been scouting League with the Mariners and were similarly impressed: “95, 96 with a good split, good slider.”
League’s splits offer another anomaly: he’s limited right-handed hitters to a .224 average this season (.225 in his career) with one extra-base hit, a triple, in 96 plate appearances. Lefties are hitting .337 against him (.282 career) with six extra-base hits in 97 at-bats.
But Colletti said that won’t be League’s role.
“He’s not a right-handed or left-handed specialist,” Coletti said. “He’s a relief pitcher that pitches late in games.”
How late? Coletti said that Kenley Jansen is still the Dodgers’ closer, but League presents an intriguing alternative.
He is 29 years old with eight and a half seasons of big-league experience (including a 2007 season in Toronto in which he pitched just 14 games due to shoulder problems). He’s saved 54 games in his career, almost twice as much as any current Dodger — Jansen and Javy Guerra both have saved 29 games in their careers.
“Our bullpen is still young,” Colletti said, “dominated really, by younger players.”
How League fits in will be determined largely by his ability to adapt to the National League for the first time in his career. Sometimes changing leagues is an issue (Albert Pujols). Sometimes it isn’t (almost everyone else).
The team hasn’t announced a corresponding roster move yet and they may not do so until the last minute tomorrow. Shawn Tolleson could be optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque if the Dodgers don’t trade any of their remaining relievers, though Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com suggests they might. The trade deadline is at 1 p.m. Pacific Time and the Dodgers are hoping to add a starting pitcher in a trade, likely Chicago Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster, in which case Stephen Fife would also be optioned to Albuquerque.
The GM paused for a second when I asked him if he would have made this deal if veteran Todd Coffey was still healthy, then said, “yeah, if you have a chance to get the player.”
A few more items from around the League:
He’s expected to arrive tomorrow afternoon from Seattle, where the Mariners are hosting the Blue Jays.
He wears #43, which is the number of current bullpen coach Ken Howell.
He’s on Twitter: @BrandonLeague43
He was one of six Mariners pitchers who no-hit the Dodgers on June 8 at Safeco Field, recording the final two outs of the eighth inning.
In 2001, League was the 2001 Gatorade Hawaii Player of the Year.