Overachieving bullpen starting to struggle

Dodgers eager for return of closer Jansen after another tough loss

Overachieving bullpen starting to struggle

LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly said he wanted to ease Kenley Jansen back into his closer's role.

But that was two days ago, before Pedro Baez went on the disabled list and Yimi Garcia was taken deep by a left-handed hitter for the second time in as many outings, as Carlos Gonzalez slugged a stunning three-run blast in the ninth inning Thursday night for Colorado's rain-delayed 5-4 comeback win.

So there are cracks in the foundation of the amazing, overachieving young bullpen that has been such an integral part of the club's torrid first six weeks. And Jansen, finally healthy after February foot surgery, is now badly needed.

How badly? Garcia blew a save Monday night by allowing a ninth-inning home run to Christian Yelich, but Scott Van Slyke won the game with a walk-off homer. Wednesday night, Adam Liberatore and Chris Hatcher gave up a lead as Carlos Frias' potential win turned into a Dodgers loss. And on Thursday, Brett Anderson (eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings) and Juan Nicasio (four strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings) contained their former team through seven innings, but Garcia pumped nothing but fastballs and CarGo was ready for No. 14, which he sent into the pavilion.

Mattingly had lefty J.P. Howell warming up, but said it was Garcia's inning once he got the second out. Mattingly was asked if he was concerned about Garcia's rookie psyche now that his ERA has gone from 0.63 to 3.38 in two appearances.

"A little," Mattingly admitted. "He's a young guy with a lot of success and now two times out he's gotten hit. So, you don't know if, being a young guy, or any guy. But the guy didn't get here by having a bunch of success and then giving up."

Mattingly wouldn't confirm that Jansen's return would be moved up to Friday from Saturday's original target date. He used Hatcher for a clean rebound inning after his rough outing Wednesday night and said he was out of right-handers in the ninth, since Baez was injured and Sergio Santos pitched Wednesday.

"[The bullpen] has been really, really good up to this point," he said. "Almost dominating and probably, not a total surprise, but better than you would think coming out of Spring Training and having to piece things together."

That said, Mattingly sounds ready for Jansen's return.

"Two days in a row we had a lead we don't protect," he said. "I can't say I'm excited, but I'm glad he's healthy and coming back. It seems the timing is right to have that guy back. He's one of the top closers in the game."

Mattingly didn't give his offense a pass for not scoring off the Rockies' bullpen after getting four runs against Chad Bettis in his first start of the year. In the seventh, Adrian Gonzalez led off with a double, but with one out was caught trying to steal third base, confirmed on an replay challenge. Yasmani Grandal followed with a single, but Mattingly defended Gonzalez, saying he would have been safe if he hadn't stumbled slightly taking off for third.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.