Joe Torre makes the move: Jonathan Broxton loses his closer's role to Hong-Chih Kuo
It seemed inevitable, or it would have if the manager wasn’t Joe Torre.
Torre, loyal almost to the point of being hard-headed, nonetheless saw what most everyone else has been seeing in Jonathan Broxton the last six weeks -- that he no longer could get the job done as the team’s closer.
So before Friday’s game in Atlanta, Torre said Hong-Chih Kuo would take over the closing duties for now. Now, however, not being Friday night.
If the Dodgers get ahead Friday, Torre said he would use Octavio Dotel.
Although Kuo pitched to only one batter Thursday, he has pitched on consecutive days and Torre apparently doesn’t want to push it with an elbow that has been surgically repaired four times.
Kuo is 3-0 with a 0.90 earned-run average this season and has saved three games in four opportunities.
Dotel arrived from the Pirates before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline. He had been the closer in Pittsburgh, saving 21 games in 26 opportunities -- the same number as Broxton.
Said Torre to reporters in Atlanta: "Brox understood and knows he needs to earn it back. We need him to get back. ... He's an All-Star closer. He's the reason the NL has home field in the World Series. We just need to get him going again. The game will dictate what situation we use him in.
"I think its more mental than physical."
The hard-throwing Broxton, however, has been in a funk for the last six weeks. Since his June 27 meltdown against the Yankees, he has a 9.87 ERA in his last 14 games.
The final blow came Thursday, when the Dodgers lost a seven-run lead in the final two innings in Philadelphia. Broxton surrendered four runs in the ninth without recording an out.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo: Hong Chih-Kuo delivers against the Cubs last season. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times