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Dodgers' bullpen has been stealthily excellent

ARIZONA -- One reason the Los Angeles Dodgers have been able to withstand season-ending injuries to two of their five starting pitchers is that their bullpen has allowed them to shorten games when replacements Mike Bolsinger and Carlos Frias are pitching.

Now that Bolsinger and Frias are beginning to face teams for a second time, a dangerous stretch of the schedule, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he is extra alert to signs of trouble the third time through the lineup.

"I just think we're more careful as we get through the order a couple times," Mattingly said Monday before Bolsinger faced the Arizona Diamondbacks for the second time in three weeks.

The bullpen, with closer Kenley Jansen recovering from foot surgery, was a mystery coming out of spring training. Led by Jansen, it has turned into one of the best groups of relievers in the National League. The Dodgers' bullpen is in the top four in the National League in ERA (2.93), WHIP (1.15) and batting average against (.283). It leads the league in strikeouts-per-nine innings (10.23).

Diversity seems to have been part of the formula. They have hard throwers in Jansen, Pedro Baez and Adam Liberatore and finesse pitchers in Joel Peralta and J.P. Howell. They have also kept the group in constant flux, bringing fresh arms from Triple-A whenever there is an opportunity to make a roster move.

Baez and Peralta have returned from injuries in the past week and Brandon League is scheduled to make his final rehab appearance for Triple-A Oklahoma City Monday night. He could return to the Dodgers as soon as Wednesday.

Not having to worry about the ninth inning has taken a lot of pressure off Mattingly. Jansen, who missed the first 34 games, has 26 strikeouts and no walks in his 15 2/3 innings and opponents are hitting .115 off him.

"Every time we bring him in, you feel like the game's over. It doesn't always happen that way, but for the most part, you feel he's going to handle anybody -- lefty, righty, doesn't matter," Mattingly said.