Bullpen was a liability, now is an asset

LOS ANGELES –- A couple of weeks ago, Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti was spending a lot of his time on the telephone searching for relief help before the trade deadline. Frustrated by teams asking for his best prospects, he decided to step away from what he viewed as an overheated market.

Relief pitchers did switch teams -- Scott Downs, Francisco Rodriguez, Marc Rzepczynski and Jose Veras among them -- but they were generally second-tier setup men, and, in one case -- Jesse Crain -- the pitcher wasn’t even healthy enough to pitch.

What seemed like a gamble at the time -– the Dodgers' only hedge against their questionable bullpen was to sign Brian Wilson, a pitcher coming off reconstructive elbow surgery -– has looked anything but ill-conceived.

If these past few weeks are any indication, the Dodgers had all the arms they’ll need. They might even have too many. Somebody’s going to have to go when Wilson finishes his rehab outing sometime in the next week or so.

The Dodgers don’t even have to play that well to win these days. They made four errors and won Sunday because Clayton Kershaw was pitching and their offense was clicking. Ricky Nolasco teetered on getting knocked out of Monday’s game in the second inning –- and the Dodgers were baffled by young Jenrry Mejia –- but they got breaks and rallied to win 4-2.

The constant has been the bullpen, which hasn’t allowed a run in five days. Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen got the final eight outs of Monday’s game, meaning the bullpen has now pitched 16 straight scoreless innings.

“At the beginning, we struggled. It takes a little time to get everybody right,” Belisario said. “We started winning. We started pitching good.”

Jansen has been virtually impossible to hit lately, stabilizing the back of games. Since July 3, he has converted all 11 of his save chances, and opponents are hitting .109 against him since that time.

“Everybody’s kind of getting together at the right time,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “We definitely feel good about it. Guys have been getting their outs. I think we went into the season feeling pretty good about it.”