Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that he had been contemplating the move for a week but he didn’t make it official until Tuesday, one day after League blew his fourth save of the season in a 5-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“I don’t know that it works better this way,” Mattingly said. “I wish I could say we had the sixth through the ninth (innings) covered and that any time we got there the game was going to be over. We’re like every other team. Nobody knows that if it gets there it’s going to be over. There’s a lot of teams with bullpen problems.”
But the need for the Dodgers to make a move became painfully obvious Monday, when League coughed up a 3-1 lead by allowing four runs in two-thirds of an inning. That raised his ERA to 6.00, the highest among all pitchers on the Dodgers’ active roster and the only ERA above 4.00.
Though League has converted 13 save opportunities this season, Monday’s blown save seemed to sting the manager particularly hard.
“Losses like last night really hurt you,” Mattingly said. “Those are just tough losses, games that you feel like you had in hand then you give one up.”
League struck out Miguel Montero to start the ninth inning, then allowed a single to Martin Prado, a double to Gerardo Parra, and an infield single to pinch-hitter Jason Kubel that scored Prado from third.
“Story of the year,” League said after the game. “I get the first hitter, stuff just escalates — base hit, double, ground ball that’s inches away from being an out. It’s back to the drawing board.”
Jansen has a 2.53 earned-run average and an outstanding 44-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 32 innings. He is 2 for 3 in save opportunities this year after going 25 for 32 as the closer last year, a role he lost to League because of an arrhythmia in his heart — a condition that required surgery last October.
League has struck out 13 and walked seven in 24 innings. The 30-year-old’s velocity is about the same as it was last September, when he converted all six save opportunities after becoming the closer. Yet he’s hardly fooling anyone.
“I don’t think velocity is anything to go by,” League said Monday. “It’s location, consistency, consistency with where the pitch is going.”
His new role?
“We’ll just have to see,” Mattingly said. “We talked about it. He said he wants to do whatever to help the team however he can. Said he’s versatile, he’s pitched everywhere out of the ‘pen.”
League has a 2.89 career earned-run average in the ninth inning (159 IP, 51 ER) and a 4.37 ERA in all other innings (269.2 IP, 131 ER).
“Last year he struggled early with Seattle,” Mattingly said. “We got him, he struggled a little bit and put it back together. … We’re going to need him, that’s for sure.”
The eighth inning will be dictated largely on matchups. Mattingly mentioned Paco Rodriguez, J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario among his options. He seemed open to letting the new roles sort themselves out before Jansen gets the ninth inning.