Postgame thoughts: Dodgers 6, Marlins 4.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig was benched Tuesday for the sixth time since reaching the majors. (Associated Press photo)

They closed the roof on Marlins Park on Tuesday night, and Yasiel Puig raised it.

The precocious rookie also changed the narrative on an eventful 48 hours in Miami.

In contrast to Puig’s last two games, Tuesday’s performance was hardly a whirlwind: He played four defensive innings and saw two pitches. It was a minimalist performance that commanded a maximum of attention, the artistic opposite of the $2.5 million orgy of cartoon flamingos and marlins beyond the center-field fence.
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Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow made an impression in his debut game.

Chris WithrowChris Withrow went from a minor-league starter to a major-league reliever, a jittery ball of nerves to a statistic, booed briefly when he gave up the game-tying run in the seventh inning Wednesday then golf-clapped off the Dodger Stadium mound following his major-league debut.

A whirlwind, to be sure.

“It was still a lot of fun,” the 24-year-old pitcher said after the game. “Definitely to get out there and get my feet wet was an awesome experience. I wish my results were a little better. When you come into a game, it’s 4-3, you want to hold the lead. I wasn’t able to do that so i didn’t get my job done.”
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Kenley Jansen is the Dodgers’ new closer.

Kenley JansenBrandon LeagueBrandon League is out as the Dodgers’ closer and Kenley Jansen is in.

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.”
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Daily Distractions: Pressure on Dodgers mounting, and more Yasiel Puig.

Mark Ellis

Second baseman Mark Ellis stopped but couldn’t make an out on this ground ball during the Dodgers’ ninth-inning meltdown Monday. (Associated Press photo)

Matthew Kory, writing for SportsonEarth.com, makes a good point today: It’s hard to make sense of how pressure affects athletes. Specifically, in his piece, how the pressure of the Dodgers’ circumstances (expectations, payroll, proclamations from ownership) are affecting an underperforming team.

Most athletes get questions about pressure from us media types. Most say “there is pressure in every situation,” or some variation thereof, but we don’t know exactly how each player perceives the pressure in a situation. It’s foolish to assume that all athletes have the same perception of the pressure facing them or their team.

All we really know is that these guys are better than most of us at handling pressure. Even Brandon League was remarkably calm after getting pulled in the ninth inning yesterday, and remarkably calm again while talking to reporters less than an hour later. In between, he could have been exerting his emotions on any number of inanimate objects. I still maintain that his composure in the critical situations was impressive, even if his command of belt-high sinkers to Gerardo Parra and Martin Prado was not.

But the pressure is mounting.

After yesterday’s game, I asked Don Mattingly where the tipping point is — when a pitcher who’s blown four saves can no longer be trusted to save another.

“I’m not sitting here trying to defend Brandon at this point,” Mattingly said. “For the most part, Brandon has been saving games.”

Seems like it’s getting harder to defend a lot of things around this team, and that’s a consequence of pressure.

Onto the bullet points:

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Brandon League isn’t necessarily on thin ice as the Dodgers’ closer.

Brandon LeagueThe ice under Brandon League‘s feet is thicker than you might think.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly offered his second unenthusiastic endorsement for closer Brandon League this homestand Monday, sounding no closer to a long-term solution to the Dodgers’ growing ninth-inning problem.

Asked if League was still the closer one day after giving up two runs in the ninth inning in a non-save situation against the Miami Marlins, Mattingly said, “Yeah, for right now he is. I hate to say it like that but yeah, for now.”
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The Dodgers’ closer debate continues, at least in the manager’s mind.

Brandon LeagueKenley JansenOne day after Brandon League allowed the game-winning home run in the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly defended his closer. Sort of.

“I don’t feel Brandon’s done anything really wrong,” Mattingly said. “I know he’s given up — gives up the home run to (Guillermo) Quiroz (Saturday), the home run (to Paul Goldschmidt) last night. Even the blown save, we feel like if we make plays for him he gets that one (April 24 in New York). Then he’d have zero (blown saves). So I don’t really feel like Brandon’s come in and walked the park, gotten hit all over the place. Obviously he’s getting hit a little bit, though.”
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Brandon League’s job is in jeopardy after the Dodgers’ sixth straight loss.

Paul Goldschmidt

Paul Goldschmidt’s home run off Brandon League in the ninth inning Tuesday makes him 9 for 20 with two homers against the Dodgers this season. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

You get the feeling that the Dodgers will have a new closer soon.

Tomorrow, perhaps.

Brandon League didn’t blow a save Tuesday, but he added another shaky performance to a long list of them in 2013. League allowed a pair of runs in the ninth inning, both on a Paul Goldschmidt home run that lifted the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 5-3 win at Dodger Stadium.

The Goldschmidt home run came on a belt-high sinker over the middle of the plate, the last of 11 pitches that included five foul balls after the count went full.

“My plan was to get Goldschmidt to ground into a double play,” League said. “That’s an example of what happens when you throw a good hitter a (feces-infused) pitch.”

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Daily Distractions: Picking a new WBC favorite; Cactus League attendance down; Mike Piazza ads.

WBC logoI started toying with this mental exercise last night: What if the state of California had a team in the World Baseball Classic?

Forget about how many players would decline invitations. Forget about generational eligibility — if you were born in California, you’re eligible (which is fine, since I had a better chance of making Team Wisconsin anyways). What would that team look like? Could it contend?

The answer is yes.

C: John Jaso, Mariners/Rod Barajas, Diamondbacks
1B: Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers
2B: Aaron Hill, Diamondbacks
SS: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies
3B: Ty Wigginton, Cardinals
LF: Ryan Braun, Brewers
CF: Coco Crisp, A’s
RF: Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins
DH: Prince Fielder, Tigers
UT: Skip Schumaker, Dodgers

SP: Jered Weaver, Angels
SP: CC Sabathia, Yankees
SP: James Shields, Royals
SP: Cole Hamels, Phillies
SP: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
RP: Sergio Romo, Giants
RP: Brandon League, Dodgers
RP: Addison Reed, White Sox
RP: Dale Thayer, Padres
RP: J.P. Howell, Dodgers
RP: Bryan Shaw, Diamondbacks
RP: Kris Medlen, Braves

Manager: Dusty Baker, Reds
Hitting coach: Mark McGwire, Dodgers
Pitching coach: Chris Bosio, Cubs

Apologies to C.J. Wilson, Mark Trumbo, Michael Young, Will Venable, Brandon McCarthy, Kyle Lohse, Mike Moustakas and Carlos Quentin. Perhaps you can dig into your family tree and find another state to play for.

On to some bullet points:

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Some odds and ends from Dodgers spring training.

Some odds and ends from Thursday at Camelback Ranch, the final day before the Dodgers’ position players are expected to report to spring training.
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Daily Distractions: One day until Dodgers pitchers and catchers report; items on Jon Garland, Matt Kemp, Mike Piazza.

We’re driving to Arizona today in advance of Dodgers pitchers and catchers reporting tomorrow, and hope to fare better than Brandon League.

Perhaps it’s the calm before the storm, but only a Kevin Gregg signing interrupted a slow weekend for baseball-related Dodgers news. Off-the-field news? Keep reading, it’ll keep you busy until we hit Indio:

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