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Jonathan Broxton's road back won't lead to automatically being the closer

June 23, 2011 |  6:37 am

Jonathan "Big Boy" Broxton
made an encouraging first rehab start, but don’t expect him to be handed his closer’s role when he returns.

Seems he’s going to have to earn it a tad, or at least prove he deserves to be back at the end of the bullpen. Which seems only right, considering he hasn’t been right for a year.

Don Mattingly said if Broxton demonstrates he’s back in form, he will be the closer. That means he’ll have to show a lot since he last pitched May 3 and went on the disabled list with an elbow bone bruise and a 5.68 ERA.

"He would be a lot like (Hong-Chih) Kuo," Mattingly said. "It’s hard to just bring a guy back and throw him right in that ninth-inning spot. I think we’ll try to get him into some games, get him comfortable out on the mound and see where he’s at and then go from there."

Realize, of course, that the Dodgers currently have no real closer. Kuo has pitched only one game since returning from the DL with his second bout of anxiety disorder. Rookie Javy Guerra, fresh from double-A Chattanooga, is the nearest thing the Dodgers have to a closer.

Mattingly admitted that aside from brief moments, at no time this season has Broxton thrown the way he is capable.

When Broxton got off to his poor start, General Manager Ned Colletti created a mini-hubbub when he said it may be time for the Dodgers to go to closer by committee.

Mattingly quickly backed Broxton, but now that time has arrived, though in his perfect world, Broxton would still would close.

"I think it would be best if he’s throwing the ball the way he’s capable of," Mattingly said. "He’s still that guy. Our goal right now is to get him in there and see what it looks like. Then we’ll think about getting him back in that type situation."

Mattingly said Broxton, whose velocity has seriously dipped this season, threw from 94 to 97 mph in his one inning Tuesday for triple-A Albuquerque.

"He was averaging 95, punched out a couple of guys," he said. "It looks like he’s on the road."

Broxton is scheduled to pitch an inning again Thursday, and his velocity will continue to be monitored.

"When a guy goes from 98-99, and a year later he's 91, something's going on," Mattingly said. "That usually doesn't lie. You could say mechanics this or mechanics that, but at some point that's a big difference. And the fact that it's jumped in his first outing back kind of shows there was something going on there."


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Photo: Jonathan Broxton delivers a pitch during an exhibition game on March 28. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times