The closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers is not well. Jonathan Broxton has been nursing an injured toe for a few weeks, and it has started to affect his pitching.
Granted there were a few off days mixed in, but this work load is far less than could be expected from a championship level team's closer.
In that stretch, Broxton converted all four of his save opportunities, and is 20-for-22 on the season. However, on July 5, he came in during a non-save situation and gave up three earned runs, allowing San Diego to tie a game with a five-run ninth inning, costing Chad Billingsley a chance at his 10th victory.
Broxton lost his command, surrendering three walks along with two hits. If Padre catcher Eliezer Alfonzo doesn't slide past third base and get tagged out, San Diego most likely pushes across one more run to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Instead, that mistake halts the Padre momentum and the Dodgers are able to use a 13th inning homer from James Loney and three innings of no-hit relief from Jeff Weaver to grab the last game and thus win the series in San Diego.
Once more, it is a non-save situation as the Dodgers had cracked open the tie by scoring six runs in the top of the 10th inning, the last four coming on a grand slam by Matt Kemp.
Again, Broxton had a rough outing, conceding two runs on three hits and a walk. Kemp closed out the game with a fantastic over-the-shoulder catch of a deep drive off the bat of Jason Kendall.
The next day, the Dodgers announce Broxton will not pitch the balance of the Brewer series nor will he pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday in St. Louis.
The reason given is continued trouble with his right big toe, which is the foot he uses to push off the rubber and lands on after releasing a pitch.
Considering the trickle down effect, this means the balance of the bullpen will have to pick up the slack. Added to this problem is the fact rookie reliever Ronald Belisario has been placed on the disabled list due to elbow pain.
MRI's have shown no major structural issues, but Belisario is not expected back for at least a month.
Guillermo Mota and Ramon Troncoso will be looked at in the short run to handle the closing duties. For the next few days, they should suffice, though Mota did allow a one run deficit expand to three in Saturday's loss to Milwaukee.
He came in with ducks on the pond and surrendered a double to J.J. Hardy, which cost situational lefty Brent Leach two earned runs.
The Dodgers made a move to strengthen the bullpen prior to Saturday's game, sending Blake DeWitt back down once again to Triple-A Albuquerque, and recalling lefty Scott Elbert for the second time this season.
Elbert entered the game Saturday in the fourth inning, throwing two and two-third innings of relief, and surrendering only one walk. He struck out three and lowered his ERA from 7.11 to an even 5.00 in four outings this year.
The arrival of Elbert means Leach isn't the only left-handed option for Torre, given Will Ohman and Eric Milton are currently residing on the 15-day DL, and Hong-Chih Kuo has just recently started pitching in minor league games. Kuo's return from the 60-day DL remains an open question.
Righty's James McDonald, Corey Wade, and Claudio Vargas round out the bullpen staff, giving Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt seven options until the next roster adjustment.
Given the way the Dodgers go through relief pitchers, often using three per game, they need the extra bodies.
While announcing that Broxton will not pitch the last two games against the Brewers nor in the All-Star game, the second-string Dodger TV announcers, Eric Collins and Steve Lyons, also mentioned that Broxton will go to St. Louis for the All-Star Festivities.
This is completely absurd!
If he is not pitching, the National League needs to add another arm so they are not shorthanded, particularly if the game goes into extra innings.
After all, as FOX and the commissioners office love to keep slamming fans over the head in a sledgehammer like fashion, now it counts.
The National League needs to break the American League's winning streak and give which ever team wins the NL pennant home field advantage in the World Series.
Naturally, those who reside in Dodgertown, Calif., are hoping their Boys in Blue will be the National League representative. That brings up the other element of this situation.
What mental defect impairing which decision maker would allow Broxton to travel to St. Louis for these festivities?
If his bad toe is such that it prevents him from effectively pitching, Broxton needs to come home and rest. Stay off that foot for a couple of days except when getting some treatment from the Dodger training staff.
Broxton is the leader of the Dodger bullpen. He needs to step up and show he knows which is more important, bouncing around the baseball equivalent of Mardi Gras, or taking care of his health so he can be ready once the season resumes.
Broxton, Torre, and Honeycutt will be in for some serious questioning as to why they are not doing what is necessary for the benefit of the Dodger team in general and Broxton in particular if this detail is not handled properly.