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Jonathan Broxton and the nervous watch

March 10, 2011 |  4:54 pm

Feel better?

No? Just one little ol’ Jonathan Broxton outing, right? A spring training outing, no less. In the grand scheme, it means about as much as Tommy Lasorda’s latest diet.

Only the thing is that despite being a veteran, Broxton is going to be watched very carefully. During the first month of the season and, yes, even during spring training.

Broxton is coming off his Incredible Second Half Meltdown, when he segued from All-Star closer to nightly disaster with all the subtly of a Charlie Sheen lawsuit … oh, I don’t know, $100 million sounds like a nice round number!

After June 26 last season, Broxton went 2-6 with five saves in nine opportunities and a 7.57 ERA. And lost his job as the team’s closer.

New manager Don Mattingly was quick to announce this winter that Broxton would be his closer going into the coming season, which struggles and all, made perfect sense.

Still, Broxton will be closely observed, people looking for evidence he has put his struggles behind him.

Games like Thursday’s won’t do anything to cause a swell of confidence.

After his first two strong spring outings in which he did not allow a hit, he was a complete mess Thursday against the Padres. He faced five batters and each reached base.

He gave up a leadoff home run to somebody named Jarret Hoffpauir and a single to Anthony Rizzo (ditto), who then stole second and third, before being thrown out at the plate. See, he actually did record an out.

With a clean slate, he then gave up a single to Rob Johnson (no, not the quarterback), hit Everth Cabrera with a pitch and walked Cameron Maybin to load the bases.

Which ended his afternoon. To make matters worse, reliever Stuart Pomeranz allowed all three runners to score, which left Broxton with a 15.43 ERA. That’s deceiving sure, but still adds to the apprehension.

In 2009 Broxton left spring with a 10.80 ERA, 0-1 record and blew his only save. And that season he saved 36 games, with a 2.61 ERA and a 7-2 record. Last spring he headed out of Arizona with a nice 2.79 ERA and 1-0 mark and then suffered his worst season. So it’s not like spring is some monster indicator with Broxton.

He would have to pitch like Thursday almost every outing to leave spring without the closer's job, but if he continues to struggle in April, patience does not figure to be on his side.

-- Steve Dilbeck

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