Hatcher handling high-pressure situations

Dodgers reliever says he's fine with no set role in bullpen

Hatcher handling high-pressure situations

SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers don't have an eighth-inning reliever in their bullpen, nor do they necessarily need one according to Don Mattingly. The Dodgers skipper is content to mix and match his relievers according to the situation and the opponent.

Chris Hatcher is just fine with that. Since returning from an oblique injury on Aug. 15, the right-hander has held opponents to a .189 batting average against and owns a 1.74 ERA in that time.

Hatcher pitched the eighth inning of Saturday night's 2-0 victory, retiring the heart of the Padres' order. It was precisely the situation Dodgers fans have learned to dread.

But Hatcher, for one, didn't see it as an audition for the setup job as a bridge to closer Kenley Jansen.

"None of us have really had a role all year, except Kenley," Hatcher said. "The whole role thing is overblown, I think. As a bullpen guy, you've just got to be ready."

Hatcher says it's not important when he pitches, but with more outings like Saturday's, he'll almost certainly be thrust into high-leverage situations.

"I enjoy every time I'm out on the mound," Hatcher said. "Do we all want to pitch late in the game? Yeah. But is it a key? No. you just go out there when they call your name and try to get outs."

Hatcher has done just that recently, and Mattingly has taken notice. Mattingly said the club had asked Hatcher to do a better job mixing his offspeed pitches, and that's what Hatcher worked on during his time off.

"He's throwing a couple different breaking balls now," Mattingly said. "He's taking the slider where he threw it hard all the time, and he's got a slower one now, which gives him a little change of pace."

That was on display Saturday night, when Hatcher struck out Padres cleanup man Justin Upton. He threw Upton an 82-mph slider on the corner for strike two, before bouncing a 90-mph slider in the dirt that Upton couldn't lay off.

Hatcher didn't blink. Nor did he falter in extra innings against the Giants on Monday night, when Mattingly called on him for three frames. Hatcher pitched scoreless ball, striking out four.

"It's still baseball," Hatcher said of pitching down the stretch in a pennant race. "The only difference is probably the crowds. I don't necessarily feel any more pressure."

Worth noting

• Second baseman Howie Kendrick will rejoin the team this week in Anaheim, but there is still no set date for his return. Kendrick is recovering from a left-hamstring strain. He isn't quite running at full speed yet, and Mattingly said the biggest hurdle in that regard is making turns on the basepaths.

The Oklahoma City Dodgers begin their playoffs Wednesday, and Kendrick, who is working out in Arizona, could rehab there.

• Mattingly wouldn't rule out the chance of callup Corey Seager potentially making the postseason roster. But he called the idea "a little far out there."

Jose Peraza is almost fully recovered from a sore left hamstring and is available off the bench if necessary. But with expanded rosters, chances are the club will wait until Peraza is 100 percent to see game action.

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.