6/22/2013 3:14 A.M. ET
Dodgers' bullpen struggling to regain form
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
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).
Capuano likely to start Sunday on short rest
SAN DIEGO -- Chris Capuano is almost certain to start Sunday's game on short rest, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Friday night.
Mattingly said he still needed to confirm with general manager Ned Colletti but was further convinced after Capuano threw a light bullpen session Friday.
"I feel great, I'm available and they'll make the final decision," said Capuano, who has undergone a pair of Tommy John operations and already been disabled twice this year for lat and calf strains.
Capuano came off the disabled list with the strained lat muscle to pitch six relatively stress-free and scoreless innings in the second game of Wednesday's doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
He said one of the reasons he came out after 84 pitches was knowing that the club needed a Sunday starter because the Tuesday night rainout in New York pushed back Hyun-Jin Ryu, who has never pitched on three days' rest.
Capuano hasn't pitched on three days' rest since his final start of 2005, before the elbow operations. But he said he has bounced back quickly from Wednesday's start.
"After the sixth inning the other day, I said we'd need someone Sunday and that was also a factor coming out after the sixth inning," he said. "I felt so good I was looking to go back out [for the seventh inning], but I also understood this was in the back of my mind."
Mattingly said if the club decides not to start Capuano, a starter would be called up from Triple-A Albuquerque. The two candidates are Matt Palmer and Matt Magill, but that seemed less likely after Friday night's game than before it.
And even if Capuano starts, the Dodgers wouldn't expect him to pitch more than five innings and the Dodgers would consider promoting a reliever.
Kemp set for Triple-A rehab assignment
SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp will begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment Saturday, teammate Hanley Ramirez announced on his Twitter account.
Ramirez, apparently developing skills for a blogging career when his playing days are over, got the news from Kemp in the trainer's room after Kemp passed a baserunning test before Friday's batting practice.
Kemp, who is working his way back from a right hamstring strain, initially will serve as the designated hitter at Triple-A Albuquerque, then move to the outfield.
"I saw him run this afternoon and this is what I was hoping for, for him to go out and play," manager Don Mattingly said.
Mattingly estimated Kemp would need to play at least three Minor League games before being activated, which puts him on schedule for the end of the three-game series at home against the Giants or the start of the four-game set with the Phillies.
Kemp will be joined at Albuquerque by outfield teammate Scott Van Slyke, who is eligible to be activated Wednesday.
In other injury news, disabled pitcher Ted Lilly (neck strain) said he would throw off a mound Saturday.
Ethier given night off to rest sore knee
SAN DIEGO -- Andre Ethier was out of the Dodgers' starting lineup Friday night because of a sore left knee, but the outfielder said he would play Saturday.
Manager Don Mattingly said Ethier incurred the injury last Friday when he bumped into right fielder Yasiel Puig while running down a fly ball to the wall in Pittsburgh.
Mattingly said the fact that Ethier played with discomfort through Wednesday's doubleheader and Thursday night after a cross-country flight contributed to the day off.
"The knee has a little swelling and we've asked a lot of him," said Mattingly, who pressed Ethier into center-field duty with Matt Kemp sidelined. "He needs a day. He and Puig ran together in Pittsburgh and he hit the wall, but I don't know if that was necessarily it."
Skip Schumaker started in center Friday night and Elian Herrera was in left.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.