Bolsinger eager to join Dodgers-Cardinals rivalry

Growing up a Cubs fan, surprise star of LA rotation had no love for St. Louis

Bolsinger eager to join Dodgers-Cardinals rivalry

Mike Bolsinger is a newcomer to the rivalry between the Dodgers and Cardinals, but the right-hander already doesn't have an affinity for the club in St. Louis.

"I grew up a Cubs fan. Growing up, we didn't like the Cardinals," said Bolsinger, whose family is from Gurnee, Ill. "Obviously there's a bit of a rivalry here with what they did to the Dodgers last year, so hopefully we can go in there and stay hot."

The Cardinals have ended the Dodgers' season the past two seasons, first in the 2013 National League Championship Series and again in the 2014 NL Divisional Series.

"Meeting in the playoffs like that ups the regular season when you meet them," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It's a little bit different than playing Milwaukee. Not trying to downplay Milwaukee, but after seeing [St. Louis] in the playoffs three times, it changes things."

Bolsinger will get his first crack at the Cards as the teams meet up for a three-game series starting on Friday in St. Louis.

"I know St. Louis is a tough team. The advantage for me is that they haven't seen me," Bolsinger said. "You go up and down that lineup, one through nine -- even [pitcher John] Lackey -- can really hit."

Bolsinger was not considered this spring to being a factor at the Major League level, but he has stepped up in the wake of Dodgers injuries to provide Los Angeles with quality starts. The right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.71 ERA in four starts, none better than his previous start against the Padres.

Bolsinger allowed a single to Yangervis Solarte to start off the game, but he immediately induced Cory Spangenberg into a double play. From there on, no one would reach base against Bolsinger, who went a career-high eight strong innings.

Now Bolsinger has to follow that performance against a St. Louis team that is second in the NL in batting average.

"I think I've picked and choosed times to enjoy [this season]. Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed it, but at the same time you have to stay focused," Bolsinger said. "Don't let the bad things get to you and don't let the good things get to you."

Bolsinger has bamboozled hitters this year with an array of offspeed pitches, most notably a sweeping knucklecurve, and a fastball that will rarely touch 90 mph. Bolsinger said he could hit the low 90s last year with Arizona, but he was sick during the offseason, which limited some of his throwing during the winter. But as he's proven this year, not lighting up the radar gun can still be effective.

"If you've got movement on the ball, that's sometimes more devastating than throwing it as hard as you can," Bolsinger said. "You're not going to be able to get away with a 2-0 fastball right down the middle. You have to come with something else, and I pride myself on throwing my offspeed pitches for strikes and having control over them."

Bolsinger started the year with Triple-A Oklahoma City, but after Los Angeles lost Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy to season-ending injuries, he's filled in as the Dodgers' No. 4 starter. Even with his effectiveness, there's no guarantee Bolsinger will still be around if the Dodgers face the Cardinals for a third straight time in the playoffs. Rumors constantly swirl linking the Dodgers to starting pitchers in the trade market.

But for right now, at least, Bolsinger is just enjoying the moment and looking forward to adding his mark to the next chapter in the Dodgers-Cards matchup.

"Rumors, they're in one ear and out the other," Bolsinger said. "My theory is just to keep pitching well and good things will happen."

Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.