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Dodgers' web musings: How long will Dodgers go with Jonathan Broxton as their closer if he struggles again?

January 24, 2011 |  6:53 am

In a little over three weeks, Jonathan Broxton will once again report to spring training as the Dodgers’ closer.

And barring injury, when spring training draws to a close six weeks later, he will open the season as their closer.

But how long of a leash will he be on? How long are the Dodgers willing to go with him in the closer’s role if he continues to struggle, as he did mightily in the second half last season?

ESPN’s Tony Jackson poses the question, and figures Broxton will get a minimum of a month. Jackson said Broxton’s overall body of work from the last 2½ seasons warrants another opportunity in the role.

Yet no one expects Manager Don Mattingly to stick with Broxton as long as Joe Torre did, should he continue to falter. Jackson attributes Broxton’s failing as a crisis of confidence, and though Broxton never admitted it, there’s no way his confidence could have been intact.

In the first half, Broxton had a 2.11 earned-run average, 19 saves, a 1.07 WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.86.

In the second half, Broxton had a 7.13 ERA, three saves, a 2.13 WHIP and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 0.86.

That’s hard to do.

If he should again prove unreliable, the next question becomes who steps in after Broxton has exceeded his rope.

The obvious answer is Hong-Chih Kuo, who took over in the role for Broxton on Aug. 13 and finished off all nine of his ensuing save opportunities.

Kuo had a remarkable season, yet his history of elbow problems likely dictates Mattingly will also be reluctant to pitch him on consecutive days. And at this moment, he is the only left-hander in the bullpen.

The Dodgers have mentioned the possibility of using Vicente Padilla in a closing role, which if nothing else, is certainly intriguing. Then there is Kenley Jansen, who was just short of sensational in his brief stint with the Dodgers but will start only his second full season as a pitcher.

Jackson said the Dodgers could go to something of a bullpen by committee should Broxton falter, though that seldom works long term.

One indication that Broxton is serious about reclaiming the closer role will be if he shows up in Arizona having shed a few of those extra pounds.

Also on the web:

-- Bryan Hoch of MLB.com writes that at the Baseball Writers Assn. of America’s baseball dinner in New York on Saturday, Torre -- honored along with retiring managers Bobby Cox and Lou Piniella -- said he was "home" once again.

-- Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness’ Mike Petriello thinks it may be dawning on Scott Podsednik about now that he messed up by turning down his half of the $2-million option to return to the Dodgers. Podsednik remains unsigned.

-- On CBS Sports’ Danny Knobler’s wish list of 10 things he hopes happens next season, No. 4 is that Frank McCourt announces in May he’s selling the Dodgers.

-- ESPN Los Angeles’ Jon Weisman is glad the Dodgers weren’t as desperate as the Angels in taking on Vernon Wells’ mega-contract.

-- Dodgers.com’s Ken Gurnick takes a look at third base coach Tim Wallach's family of baseball players. He’s had three sons drafted by the Dodgers.

-- The San Francisco Chronicle’s Susan Slusser
said a scout told her the Dodgers were raving about the workout third baseman Eric Chavez had for the Dodgers last week.

-- Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo said the Washington Nationals made a good push for James Loney this winter before signing Adam LaRoche.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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