Dodgers will be closer-by-situation until Kenley Jansen returns

LOS ANGELES -- The bullpen identity might be revealed, but that is far from making it ideal.

Attempting to fix a maligned relief corps over the offseason, the Dodgers tinkered and weaved where they could to solidify the innings ahead of closer Kenley Jansen, the group's stabilizer. But that plan took a major gashing when Jansen had to undergo foot surgery on Feb. 17 to remove a growth that was causing discomfort.

Jansen, who saved 44 games with a 2.76 ERA and 13.9 strikeouts per nine innings, is expected to be on the disabled list until the around first week of May. Until then, it will be closer-by-situation for the Dodgers, who opted not to sign or trade for one because of the relatively short time Jansen would be out.

Until he returns, the Dodgers will pluck their late-inning relievers based on inning-to-inning matchups.

"It's going to be difficult to set most guys' roles," manager Don Mattingly said. "A couple we know where to put them. We have an idea of who we'll use (at the back end), but it will be fluid, kind of on a daily basis depending on who's coming up that inning and who we feel is the best matchup."

Of the relievers to make the roster, the only one with somewhat relevant closing experience is J.P. Howell, who saved 17 games in 2009 with Tampa Bay. Other than him, there is no one else with more than spot-closing experience since Sergio Santos (30 saves in 2011 with the White Sox) and David Aardsma (38 and 31 saves in 2009 and 2010, respectively, with Seattle) were both reassigned to the minors.

Likewise, David Huff was reassigned and Adam Liberatore was optioned after Saturday's game.

Before the roster moves were announced, Mattingly was asked who he saw occupying the ninth inning, or who he was most comfortable with having the role.

"There's a number of guys in the back, from J.P. to Peralta to Hatcher to Yimi (Garcia) to (Pedro) Baez to Aardsma to (David) Huff to, uh…," Matting spouted off before being laughed into submission by the media for ducking the question.

Liberatore did not make the team despite not allowing a run in 11 appearances. But keeping him would have meant keeping three lefties in the bullpen, and his options allow the team to send him to the minors without him having to clear waivers. The fact that he showed he can get out big league hitters, though, bodes well for him later in the season.

"I think there's a number of guys who (didn't) make the club that gave us hard decisions that will still be part of our club this year," Mattingly said.

The closer's role can sometimes carry overrated importance with it. Not all high-leverage situations happen in the ninth inning, and the middle of the opposing team's lineup is just as likely, at the very least, to come up in the seventh or eighth innings as it is to come up in the ninth.

That does not always make the men in the bullpen feel any better about not having an exact role, though. Like most players, relievers are creatures of habit, and they use inning markers to guide their nightly preparation. So having a specific, laid-out role is what most of them seek.

"Everybody would like to know exactly when they are going to pitch, kind of like Kansas City had last year, but it's very seldom you can get that," Mattingly said. "For the most part, most teams aren't able to do that. But guys will have a pretty good feel for what area of the game to be prepared for.

"(We want) a closer from the standpoint of getting into a high-leverage situation, in the seventh or in the eighth, where we want that guy to pitch. But from the guys' standpoint, they look at it differently."

Mattingly and the executives believe they can ride their closer-by-committee while Jansen is out because they have enough statistical data to know where certain guys will succeed. Likewise, they have an idea of when not to use someone based on situations and matchups.

That part of the game is obviously a bigger focus for this new front-office regime when compared to the previous one. Mattingly likes it and thinks it could make a difference, especially while they lack a single closer.

"You can see how certain guys fit in and where they've been really good and where their deficiencies are," Mattingly said without citing specific analytics. "So that's the most interesting part for me, … seeing how different guys are really good at one thing, and you notice, but (the stats) really paint that picture for you."

Other roster moves: Outfielder Chris Heisey and infielder/outfielder Kike Hernandez were optioned to the minors.

The Dodgers traded for Heisey in December, giving up reliever Matt Magill, but there was no room for him in an already crowded outfield or on a deep bench.

As for Hernandez, who was part of the trade that sent Dee Gordon and Dan Haren to the Miami Marlins, he showed the Dodgers he can be an effective contributor if given the opportunity. He hit six home runs this spring, including one in the Cactus League finale Saturday.

"We struggled with some of the decisions but we talked about how it was a good problem to have," Friedman said, speaking not only about those two players but about the pitchers as well. "We feel very strongly that we sent down some major league players. The sign of a good team is to be able to do that, to have the depth to do that.

"We're excited about the 25 guys we are going to start with Monday, but we know it extends beyond the 25. There's going to be injuries, there's going to be things that come up. So to have that depth in place is key."

Ryu to begin throwing program: Hyun-Jin Ryu will start his throwing program Monday, Mattingly confirmed Saturday. Ryu will start the season on the DL because of shoulder discomfort, although an MRI showed no more damage than Ryu's MRI upon signing with the Dodgers in 2012.

The team cannot give much of a status update on the left-hander because he has yet to throw. Until he is throwing and recovering from that throwing the following day, not much can be known.