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There's a lack of trust, and good reason for it, in the Dodgers bullpen

July 19, 2010 |  6:09 am

OK, boys and girls, today we momentarily take pause from the grieving for the lost St. Louis weekend to offer this brief quiz:

Joe Torre currently has seven relievers in his bullpen -- how many does he actually trust?

Broxton_400 His bullpen boys are Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo, Jeff Weaver, Carlos Monasterios, Justin Miller, George Sherrill and Travis Schlichting.

Come on, how many?

OK, despite blowing Sunday’s game, Broxton is an obvious choice. Kuo has yet to allow a hit to a left-handed hitter, so he’s in. Weaver has been more reliable than not.

And that about ends that.

That’s right, we’re going with the correct answer: three.

Oh, the pain. A year ago, the best bullpen in baseball. Now, tilting toward disaster.
How could this be? Let us count the reasons, again sticking with three:

1) Ronald Belisario had visa problems because of a DUI arrest, showed up the last week of spring training, joined the team late and then posted a 7.20 ERA in his first 16 appearances.

Then he got it together and had a 1.31 ERA over his next 19 appearances, only to disappear and be placed on the restricted list. Turns out, he’s in a rehab facility, and I don’t mean the kind that helps sore shoulders.

2) Ramon Troncoso, a workhorse middle reliever last season who owned a 2.72 ERA in 73 games, started the season decently and then went into a serious downward spiral.

Unable to get him untracked, the Dodgers finally sent him and his 5.15 ERA to triple-A Albuquerque to work on his mechanics. In his first five games for the Isotopes, he is 0-2 with a 2.84 ERA.

3) And then there is the unexplained mystery of George Sherrill, who was nothing short of sensational last season for the Dodgers (0.65 ERA) and nothing even close to that this season (7.17 ERA).

Finally at a loss as to how to get Sherrill to rediscover his form, the Dodgers placed him on outright waivers. He could clear Monday and then be asked to take a trip to Albuquerque. He could refuse and become a free agent, but he has the rest of that $4.5-million contract to consider.

This is a trio of key, reliable relievers for the Dodgers last season. Now, they’re out of the equation.

In their stead are rookies Monasterios and Schlichting and the journeyman Miller. And the Dodgers don’t want to use Kuo, because of four elbow surgeries, on consecutive days.

It makes for a lot of unpredictable nights in the bullpen. And days like Sunday, when Kuo and Weaver had already pitched the day before and Torre did not want to go back to them.

So he pushes Broxton, and it blows up. The depth just isn’t there, and unless most of the disappointing trio return to form or outside help is brought in, there could be a lot more games like Sunday's.

Who would you trust in that bullpen?

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Jonathan Broxton walks off the field after giving up a walk-off single to St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday on Sunday. Credit: Jeff Roberson / Associated Press.