It didn't take long for the National League West--leading Dodgers to feel the loss of setup man Guillermo Mota, who was part of a six-player trade with Florida on July 30. Before dealing Mota, who was an effective eighth-inning bridge to closer Eric Gagne, the Dodgers were 43--1 in games in which they led after six innings. At week's end L.A. was 0--3 in such games since the trade.
In 63 innings of relief for the Dodgers this year, Mota was 8--4 with a 2.14 ERA. Without him L.A. has had to ask for more from Gagne, who had 35 saves at week's end. On Aug. 1, two days after Mota's departure, Gagne worked three innings--his longest outing since 2002--and he has since worked more than one inning twice in nine other appearances. In a three-game stretch last week he was the losing pitcher twice and gave up the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth of a game the Dodgers won in 11 innings, allowing six earned runs in three innings combined.
The Dodgers say they aren't concerned about Gagne, who insists he hasn't felt overworked. "The standard that has been set [for Gagne] is a little ridiculous," says pitching coach Jim Colborn, and indeed, Gagne did seem unassailable while setting a major league record of 84 straight games without a blown save before he finally coughed up a lead on July 5. But the lack of a strong eighth-inning option poses an undeniable problem. L.A. had hoped that righthander Darren Dreifort would fill Mota's role, but Dreifort went 0--3 with two blown saves in eight appearances after the trade, and last week he was diagnosed with torn ligaments in his right knee, which could sideline him for the rest of the season.
Now the Dodgers hope that rookie righthander Yhency Brazoban, who was called up on July 31, can step into the setup role. In 1282/3 minor league innings, Brazoban had 147 strikeouts and only 54 walks. In his first 7 2/3 innings with the Dodgers, Brazoban allowed one run and struck out six. L.A. also might use starters Hideo Nomo and Edwin Jackson out of the bullpen when they return from the disabled list later this month.
Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta remains optimistic despite the staff's recent troubles. "We can patch things together between now and September," he said, "and if things go well with Hideo and Edwin, we will have a plethora of options."
PETER READ MILLER (GAGNE)
Since the Mota trade, Gagne and the Dodgers' vaunted bullpen have struggled.