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Is Jonathan Broxton a weighty matter for the Dodgers?

September 10, 2010 |  2:57 pm
Real quick, to the obvious:

Jonathan Broxton is a big boy.

He is, indeed, the biggest boy in baseball. He’s listed at an even 300 pounds, which gives him 10 pounds on CC Sabathia (you know, that ace the Dodgers didn’t make an offer on).

He has always been a big boy, although he has grown. Five years ago, the Dodgers listed him at 240.

Now, pitchers come in all shapes and sizes. They can be toothpicks, giants, look like misplaced shooting forwards, and even sometimes, finely sculpted.

But with the 6-4 Broxton’s inexplicable fade in the second half, doesn’t it at least have to be asked whether he’s just a little too big? Too heavy? Not exactly in top-notch shape?

Couldn’t his location troubles and problem trying to aim pitches be attributed to his simply being in poor physical condition?

The Dodgers -- surprise -- say, no. Since Broxton is not ’fessing up to any injuries, they suspect that the problem is between his ears. It’s mental, not physical. Not a matter of being too heavy.

"I don’t know if it’s a conditioning situation," said general manager Ned Colletti. "I haven’t heard it is. I have great communication with our medical staff. If that was a concern of anybody’s, I would have heard about it."

Why isn’t it a concern? You’d think it’d at least be in the discussion when going down the list of possible explanations.

"Physically, I don’t see anything different about him than we’ve seen in the past," said manager Joe Torre. "I think right now it’s psychological part of it right now.

"Your mind rules your body and basically need to get something good under your belt before you can know rather than hope, when you come into a ballgame."

Before going into that now memorable meltdown against the Yankees on June 27, he was the model of consistency. He saved 16 of 18 games, was 3-0 and had a miniscule 0.83 ERA.

Trouble is, he’s been consistent since then too, just of the other variety: saved 6 of 10, is 2-5 and has a 6.29 ERA.

He’s lost his role as the closer, though the Dodgers hope it’s temporary. Hong-Chih Kuo has been remarkable, but they can’t afford to go into next season counting on his fragile elbow to hold up again.

They need Broxton to return to form, or get a new closer.

"That position is unique on the team," Colletti said. "There are a lot of different dynamics that go into it, including confidence. Sometimes the confidence can come and go. With rare exception in the history of that position, you’ve seen it come and go. And show back up."

If the Dodgers are actually going to count on it coming back again next season, is it too much to ask that Broxton report to camp in better physical condition? If nothing else, it would eliminate the possibility that his suddenly flat fastball is not the result of fatigue.

Trim down, get stronger, have more endurance. There’s a downside? And then maybe the mental aspect will follow.

-- Steve Dilbeck
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