The Los Angeles Dodgers are storming toward September with seemingly few needs in terms of player additions for the season's final month.
Then again, it can never hurt to have some extra pitching around, as the team found out the hard way earlier this season. While there are a few more right-handers the Dodgers can recall from Albuquerque, there is not a third left-handed relief option currently on the 40-man roster.
The Dodgers, though, have an open spot on the 40-man, one that they could fill by calling up one of the two very different lefties currently pitching out of the Isotopes' bullpen.
On the one hand there is 25-year-old Kelvin de la Cruz (2-1, 3.05 ERA, 7 saves), an eight-year minor-league veteran.
“With De La, it’s one of those things where he’s pitched well all year,” Albuquerque pitching coach Glenn Dishman said. “Sometimes he loses focus and you have to go out and jump his butt a little bit. (Manager Lorenzo Bundy) and I have done it a few times this season. He’s got a plus arm, plus breaking ball, changeup, he just sometimes gets in his own way.”
The other name, though, is the one Dodgers fans are excited about, 24-year-old former Cuban defector Onelki Garcia (0-1, 1.69 in five games). Garcia entered the season as Baseball America's No. 7 Dodgers prospect and only recently joined the Isotopes after going 2-3 with a 2.75 ERA and one save with Double-A Chattanooga.
The question is whether or not Garcia is ready to make the jump in just his first full professional season.
“You know I’ve been asked that a lot about Onelki,” Dishman said. “For me, I just haven’t seen enough of him in pressure situations. I love his stuff. He’s got a plus fastball, plus breaking ball. You saw two nights ago when he hit the first guy and then retired six in a row, five were punchouts. That part I love about him. For me, I could see him as a big-time out guy.”
In that regard, Dishman said the Dodgers have a choice of two very different lefties who could help them in different ways.
“For both of them, I see De La as a multiple-inning guy who can get lefties and righties out,” Dishman said. “From what I’ve seen from Onelki, I see a big out guy who can come into big situations, second and third, two outs and you have to get a lefty out without walking him. I can see him coming in and getting that guy out.”
Reliever to starter, starter to reliever and back again
Moving back and forth between the bullpen and rotation, whether at Triple-A or any level, can be tough on a pitcher. Sometimes it works out, as it has this season with Red Patterson. Other times it can do all sorts of things to mess a pitcher up, as it has done for Stephen Fife.
Fife recently had two ugly relief outings — four runs in four innings — before moving back to the rotation and struggling there as well.
“He’s a big routine guy,” Dishman said of Fife. “I think when we put him in the pen it kind of messed around with that. He didn’t know how to warm up. He didn’t know what kind of guy he wanted to be on the mound. It was just a cluster.”
Fife's start Monday against Oklahoma City was a disaster as he recorded just one out, walked five and allowed six runs. Fife only threw eight of 32 pitches for strikes.
“When he came out to start the other day he had a couple of missed calls with the first couple batters and all of a sudden he gets out of sync, out of whack and couldn’t find a rhythm to get back into it,” Dishman said. “I think it was just a two-week period of just not knowing what was going on and not having a plan.”
Fife will try to bounce back as he gets the start Saturday at 7:05 p.m. against Nashville.