SAN FRANCISCO — As Friday’s trade deadline approaches, the Dodgers could do worse than to acquire a pair of young, low-salaried relievers with postseason experience throwing high-leverage innings.
Right-hander Brusdar Graterol and left-hander Victor Gonzalez were those guys last year. But neither has been able to replicate their performances as rookies in 2020, a factor in the uneven performance of the bullpen at times this year.
“It’s a part of the equation,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts acknowledged. “They both played huge roles for us last year.”
Indeed they did.
Acquired from the Minnesota Twins in the wake of the Mookie Betts trade, Graterol had a 3.03 ERA and 0.90 WHIP despite a low strikeout rate (just 13 in 23-1/3 innings). Gonzalez was even better. He held batters to a .176 average with just two extra-base hits allowed (a pair of doubles) and 23 strikeouts in 20-1/3 innings.
They became even more important in the postseason, combining for 14-1/3 innings during the Dodgers’ October runs.
This season has not been the follow-up the Dodgers were counting on. Graterol, in particular, has struggled since reporting late to spring training and opening the season on the Injured List. He has spent most of the season in Triple-A and sports a 6.43 ERA in seven innings at the big-league level.
“I think with Brusdar getting the swing and miss just hasn’t been consistent,” Roberts said, having referred to Graterol earlier this season as still “a work in progress” as a pitcher. “I think that the command of the fastball hasn’t been there. It’s a miss, yanked middle to the right-handed hitter, or a miss in off the plate to the lefty. Just trying to find something to wipe them out and we just haven’t found that.”
Gonzalez has been Roberts’ go-to lefty at times this season. But he has allowed 46 baserunners (27 hits, 16 walks, three hit batters) in just 29-1/3 innings.
“The fastball command just hasn’t been there this year,” Roberts said. “The slider hasn’t had the swing and miss that it did last year. The work ethic, the care, all that stuff is still in place intact. But it’s about results as we all know and it just hasn’t been consistent, versus left or right.
“Yeah, both those guys are big pieces to what we did last year and what we’re trying to do this year. So we’ve got to stay with them. But they’ve got to perform. That’s the bottom line.”
Roberts moved Cody Bellinger back to center field Thursday after playing him at first base in Bellinger’s first two games back after a minor hamstring injury.
“We’ll continue to manage it,” Roberts said. “I think we’re out of the woods.”
A solo home run Wednesday night (his first since July 10) was the latest hopeful sign that Bellinger might get out of the woods offensively. There is little time for Bellinger to salvage the worst season of his career, one interrupted multiple times by leg injuries.
“My message to him is it’s part of his journey. It’s part of his story,” Roberts said of the frustration Bellinger is feeling. “In a perfect world, you come out and you’re Rookie of the Year, you win the MVP and you don’t look back. But that’s just not the way it is, his story.
“You live in the world right now. How are we going to get out of this? Be a team player. Help us win games on defense. And the at-bats, get back to being a good hitter first. Get back to the rudimentary part of being a good hitter and all the slug will take care of itself.
“It’s a constant conversation. The truth of the matter is guys want to feel like they’re contributing and the way that you feel you’re contributing is you hit a homer. But the way you contribute is by taking good at-bats.”
Mookie Betts increased his pregame workout Thursday morning, taking ground balls at second base and running down fly balls in the outfield. Roberts said he expects Betts to be activated from the Injured List on Sunday when he is eligible.
Dodgers (RHP Tony Gonsolin, 2-1, 2.38 ERA) at Diamondbacks (RHP Zac Gallen, 1-5, 4.80 ERA), Friday, 6:40 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM