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Los Angeles Dodgers' Front Office Makes Right Decision to Keep Paco Rodriguez Instead of Kevin Gregg

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Ronald Belisario, Paco Rodriguez Key Los Angeles Dodgers' Bullpen Turnaround
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Paco Rodriguez throws a pitch during a March 15 spring training game in Glendale, Ariz.

COMMENTARY | When the Los Angeles Dodgers' 25-man roster was announced on Sunday, the biggest surprise was the fact Paco Rodriguez made the team.

It wasn't just the fact he made the team, he made the team over a proven closer like Kevin Gregg. That's something the Dodgers haven't done in a long time, as they've chosen guys like Mike MacDougal, Ramon Ortiz and Russ Ortiz to break camp with the team instead of younger, better and more deserving players.

Gregg, who wasn't a fan of having to accept a Triple-A assignment, was released on April 3 by the Dodgers. That's fine because if Gregg does one thing well, it's not throwing strikes.

Gregg's strike percentage has trended downward in four consecutive seasons and bottomed-out at 18.5 percent -- his worst mark since 2005. His batting average on balls in play has trended upward (which isn't good) in five consecutive years and topped out at .338 in 2012.

So, the fact Gregg made it as far as he did in spring training was, to say the least, surprising.

Rodriguez was the Dodgers' second-round draft pick last year and, at age 21 (22 on April 16), had minor-league options. Instead, the Dodgers opted to keep the nasty left-hander.

Rodriguez dominated the minors in his debut season: 19 2/3 innings, 0.92 ERA, 32 strikeouts and just six walks.

He earned a late-season call-up to the Dodgers -- the first player from the 2012 draft to make it to the show. He only threw 6 2/3 innings, but he proved to the Dodgers in spring training he was ready to be a viable option out of the bullpen.

Rodriguez boasts a low-90s fastball, a high-80s cut fastball and a true out pitch in his low-80s slider. And he's a left-handed pitcher who can get right-handers out (.125 batting average against) better than he can get left-handers out (.185 batting average against in the minors). But it was a small sample size.

While he doesn't profile as a closer, Rodriguez might be more valuable to the Dodgers as a guy who can pitch in the seventh or eighth inning.

Rodriguez should be a fixture in the Dodgers' bullpen for many years to come. Gregg would have been lucky to make it to July. The Dodgers absolutely made the correct decision. And it's a decision I hope they make in the future, if it presents itself.

Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.

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