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Time for a new Dodgers closer: Joe Torre must realize he can no longer count on Jonathan Broxton

August 13, 2010 |  6:39 am
I hate to go there now. After everyone is so angry, after it seems like an almost obvious post.

I’ve been slow to criticize Jonathan Broxton, feeling his overall body of work merited patience. Feeling most every closer goes through poor stretches. That at 26, he is still reasonably young, still maturing.

But loyalty, even as Joe Torre must be learning by now, has its limits. When your eyes and your gut are both telling you the same thing, it’s time to move on.

And the Dodgers need to move on to another closer.

Maybe it makes no difference, but honestly at this point, what is there to lose? The Dodgers’ season hangs by its fingertips and Torre cannot afford to wait any longer.

Unlike past years, he does have options. Hong-Chih Kuo has been brilliant and is showing his fragile elbow can apparently within stand pitching in back-to-back games. Octavio Dotel arrived from Pittsburgh with 26 saves.

Moving Broxton to a set-up position hardly has to be permanent, but for now, if the Dodgers cling to any hope of re-entering the race, it has to be done.

I don’t care what Broxton says, he can’t be a bundle of confidence right now. There have been just too many meltdowns in too many big situations.

"I'm a little wild right now," he said. "Every pitcher goes through it. Hopefully, I'll be out of it shortly and be back to my normal self out there.’’

Only the Dodgers no longer can wait. It’s not like his struggles have been just one or two games.

Broxton has been on a downward spiral ever since that incredible ninth inning against the Yankees on June 27, when he threw an astounding 48 pitches.

Prior to that game, he had been remarkable:

He had converted 16 of 18 saves, sported a minuscule 0.83 ERA and had 48 strikeouts in 32-2/3 innings.

From that game forward:

He has converted five of eight saves, has a 9.87 ERA and has struck out 12 in 13-2/3 innings.

He has not been the same pitcher. He hasn’t even been its shadow. It’s hard to know who he is, really, only that when he went out to start the ninth Thursday and hit his first batter, the outcome felt inevitable.

Except, perhaps, to Torre.

Yet after the game, unlike when Broxton had given it up in the past, Torre less than endorsed him as his closer. He also didn’t say Broxton would lose his role.

"Let the smoke clear here before you get me to say something I didn't think about," Torre said.

Torre even suggested Broxton might have been shaken by pitching back at Citizens Bank Park, site of last year’s National League Championship Series, where Jimmy Rollins hit a game-winning double in Game 4 and the 2008 NLCS game when Matt Stairs hit his game-winning homer.

Broxton denied it, but what’s he supposed to say? This place gives me the willies?

Broxton also said there is nothing physically wrong with him, and he was clocked at 98 mph Thursday, so it’s best to give him the benefit of the doubt. Still, his pitches look flat. His location inconsistent.

He can’t be counted on right now. Whether it’s mechanical, physical or mental, it doesn’t matter. He can’t be counted on.

So it’s time to move on. Loyalty can be served another day.

--  Steve Dilbeck
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