Dodgers still committed to going without a designated closer

GLENDALE, Ariz — Opening Day is less than three weeks away. But the Dodgers are no closer to naming a closer.

“I don’t think it’s a necessity,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said this spring, reiterating a stance the team has maintained throughout the offseason. “I think the most important question to answer is whether you think our ‘pen is going to be really good, and we do. And then it’s about the mindset of each one of those guys, keeping them in the best headspace to go out and have a lot of success.

“One of the many things Doc, Mark Prior, Danny Lehmann, Josh Bard, Connor McGuiness, have done really well, is matching up our reliever strengths versus hitter weaknesses and having different runs (in opposing lineups) and I think it has contributed a lot to the success our bullpen has had and so it’s how much to get away from that, how much to keep that, who are the various guys that can close. And again, I think our bullpen is going to be a real strength and exactly how it’s deployed, I think we have some time to figure it out.”

While maintaining the save opportunities can go to multiple relievers, the Dodgers have avoided using the phrase ‘closer by committee.’ Dave Roberts acknowledges that the ‘committee’ label has gathered some negative baggage.

“Yeah. It has negative connotations because it’s not something that’s been done often and when it has been done often it’s more of by default, a lack of arm talent in the ‘pen,” Roberts said. “For us right now, I feel confident in saying that it’s not a default, it’s not a lack of arm talent. We have quite a bit of great options.”

Coming off a season that saw him post a 1.14 ERA and 0.76 WHIP, Evan Phillips would be ready to step into the closer role on many other teams.

“I’m ready to pitch in whatever situations they give me,” said Phillips who retired the side in order in his inning against the Cubs Saturday. “We haven’t discussed a certain inning or a certain type of situation all that much. I fully expect to pitch when it matters most. That’s something I feel I’ve earned the opportunity to do. Wherever those outs come – late in the game, fifth inning, sixth inning – I’ve shown I can do it all last year and I’d be happy to do it again this year.

“I just want to win games. I know the rest of our bullpen feels the same way.”

With Blake Treinen likely to spend most of this season rehabbing from shoulder surgery last fall, Phillips’ role figures to be critical – the ‘fireman’ role filled by Treinen before his injury, deployed in the highest-leverage situations before the ninth inning.

“Evan is extremely critical because of his ability to get right and left(-handed hitters) out, his openness and willingness to pitch any time we ask him to pitch, his comfort level to finish a game, his comfort level to come into an inning,” Roberts said. “All that stuff makes him extremely valuable for how I want to manage the ‘pen.”

If the Dodgers do eventually decide to fill the closer role, Phillips, Brusdar Graterol or veteran Daniel Hudson (recovering from knee surgery) are the leading candidates.

“He could absolutely be a closer,” Roberts said of Phillips. “I don’t think the question is ‘Can he do it?’ I think the question is what’s best for us and our ‘pen and how we finish games?”

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