Kenta Maeda
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Dodgers to move Kenta Maeda, Ross Stripling to bullpen

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Right-handers Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling are shifting to the bullpen for the time being, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced Sunday. The announcement follows news that closer Kenley Jansen is expected to be sidelined through August 20, if not longer, as he monitors an irregular heartbeat. Jansen is just one of half-a-dozen relievers to hit the disabled list over the last two months, making Sunday’s move a necessary one as starting pitchers Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu prepare to retake the mound in the next week or so.

Stripling, 28, should be available to pitch out of the bullpen by Tuesday evening. The righty has seen impressive results in his first All-Star season with the team; he posted an 8-3 record in 17 starts and delivered a combined 2.62 ERA, 1.4 BB/9 and 9.9 SO/9 through 110 innings out of the rotation and bullpen. Per Roberts’ comments, he’s likely to return to the rotation before the season ends, provided they can bolster the ‘pen with help from other potential starters-turned-relievers like Julio Urias.

Maeda, on the other hand, appears to be headed for a full-time role in relief. The 30-year-old right-hander has had limited exposure in the bullpen this season, pitching to a 7-7 record in 20 starts with a solid 3.80 ERA, 3.3 BB/9 and 10.7 SO/9 in 109 innings out of the rotation and ‘pen. Still, the decision to convert him to a relief pitcher isn’t a sign of demotion, only a necessary and creative restructuring of a rotation that currently ranks 11th-best in the majors. Maeda will likely be available to pitch by Wednesday’s series finale against the Giants.

Wednesday’s game will also feature southpaw Hyun-Jin Ryu, who appears ready to resume his role in the rotation after rehabbing a groin strain over the last three months. Prior to his stint on the disabled list, Ryu turned in a 3-0 record in six starts with a sharp 2.12 ERA, 3.0 BB/9 and 10.9 SO/9 across 29 2/3 innings. He’ll go toe-to-toe with Giants left-hander Derek Holland as the Dodgers close out their homestand.

Nationals’ sell-off a vindication for Dusty Baker

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The Nationals threw in the towel on Tuesday, trading second baseman Daniel Murphy to the Cubs and 1B/OF Matt Adams to the Cardinals. The club also placed outfielder and soon-to-be free agent Bryce Harper on revocable waivers but took him back. The Nats’ sell-off is a vindication for former manager Dusty Baker, let go after the Nationals failed to advance past the NLDS for a second straight year.

Baker had roughly the same team current manager Dave Martinez did. It was arguably worse, considering he never wrote Juan Soto‘s name on the lineup card. The 2018 squad, sans Baker, has been marked by mutiny and underachievement. While failing to reach the NLCS in Baker’s two years was disappointing, he took them to Game 5 in the NLDS both years as well as 95 and 97 regular season wins. Right now, Martinez’s squad has a winning percentage more than 100 points lower than Baker’s last year. They’re on pace to go 80-82, which would be their first sub-.500 season since 2011.

Baker has always had an undeserved bad rap. He was, correctly, blamed for the Cubs’ demise, due somewhat to Kerry Wood and Mark Prior falling apart, ostensibly from overuse. However, after his stint in Chicago, Baker took the lowly Reds from the bottom of the NL Central to the top in two years between 2008-10. Then he took the Nationals, which had won a meager 83 games in 2015 and had made the playoffs just twice since moving from Montreal, to two consecutive NLDS Game 5’s.

Not much changed from 2017 to ’18. Martinez inherited Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon, Michael Taylor, Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler, Shawn Kelley, and Koda Glover, among others. But for one reason or another — injuries, admittedly, make up one reason — almost all of these players are having worse years under Martinez than under Baker. Describing the 2018 team to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Baker said, “They’re together, but they’re separate.”

Is it strictly Baker that would make the difference? No, of course not. But the Nationals organization seems unwilling or unable to address issues that may extend into the front office. The Nats seem happy to go through a new manager every couple of years and hope that fixes all that ails them. Since Frank Robinson’s five years at the helm from 2002-06, Manny Acta managed two and a half years, Jim Riggleman one and a half, Davey Johnson two, Matt Williams two, Baker two. Maybe the problem was never the manager. Perhaps the problem is the Lerner family and Mike Rizzo.