Broxton Insists He'll be Fine

The Dodgers didn't give up on Jonathan Broxton this offseason. His's ability to bounce back from a brutal second half in 2010 was one of the biggest stories entering the spring. It's bigger now because of an injury that will sideline Vicente Padilla for three months, the late arrival by Ronald Belisario, and that most of Hong-Chih Kuo's injury troubles have occurred at the beginning of the season

. When the closer is struggling, it has a trickle-down effect on everybody else in the bullpen. It forces pitchers into different roles and creates more pressure situations for less talented relievers. Broxton can stabilize it all -- if he's the dominant guy from 2009 or the first three months of 2010.

Broxton didn't spend the offseason trying to figure out what wrong. He didn't watch video. Of course, he never watches video -- even during the season -- after good or bad games.

He's a big man of very few words anyway, so it's not as if he was going to see a sports psychologist.

Some wondered if his weight was an issue. Broxton did more running in the offseason, but that was just to get his legs in better shape. He said when he lost a bunch of weight many years ago in the minor leagues, he lost velocity on his fastball.

Broxton's approach is pretty simple. It goes something like this: "I've been good before. I'll be good again. I didn't forget how to pitch. I've been pitching my whole life. I just had three bad months. Forget it and start over."

Expect a lot of uneasiness among Dodgers fans this spring over Broxton's performance. Like most power pitchers, Broxton is notorious for not having good spring trainings.

New manager Don Mattingly cited his former teammate, Hall of Famer Goose Gossage, as somebody who was frequently hit hard in the spring.

"Power pitchers I've seen in the past, it takes them awhile in spring training to get going," Mattingly said. "They're usually getting beat up pretty good in the spring. Goose used to get hit every year. Then they get to the season and get that extra little adrenaline."

It's never good when coaches are preparing fans and media for bad performances in the spring by a player who is coming off three bad months. But that's the reality for Broxton right now.

"That other guy's there," Mattingly said, referring to Broxton the All-Star. "If he's getting hit a little bit in spring training, (for people) to say, 'He's not throwing well,' it's not really fair to him. If it was any other spring, you wouldn't even think about it. You would (say), 'Brox is getting ready.'"

--Former Dodgers outfielder Tommy Davis, now 71 (how in the world did that happen so fast?) was on had yesterday at Camelback Ranch to throw out the first ball in a game against the Kansas City Royals.

Tommy Davis
Davis, the only Dodger in history to win two batting titles (1962 and 1963) was mobbed by autograph hunters and Dodgers fans certainly remember him. He had to rely on park security to get him to his seat after leaving the field.

--Infielder Juan Castro, who hit only 36 home runs over his previous 16 Major League seasons, homered against the Royals yesterday and when he returned from lifting weights after the game he saw a sign prepared by his teammates telling him to see the trainers for a "mandatory steroid test." Castro is one of four candidates this spring for the second utility-infield spot.

--RHP Ron Belisario was placed on the restricted list, where they can leave him for up to two years. The move clears a 40-man roster spot, meaning the Dodgers, if they so choose, can purchase the contract of a non-roster player later this spring, and it also means the club maintains all rights to Belisario for as long as it chooses to hold onto those rights. Belisario, who pitched so well out of the bullpen the past two seasons, has been unable to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. from his native Venezuela. Although the reason for that has never come to light, Paul Kinzer, Belisario's Atlanta-based agent, said two weeks ago he wasn't optimistic that his client would pitch for the Dodgers this season.

--Left-hander Scott Elbert has faced 10 batters over two appearances, retiring four and walking the other six. He walked four of the five batters he faced yesterday, one with the bases loaded, and was charged with two earned runs in one-third of an inning. "He is just trying too hard, I imagine," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "His pens have been good, and his work has been good. ... But you have to throw strikes." When Elbert came to camp, a bullpen spot probably was his to lose. That doesn't appear to have changed, but Elbert needs to right himself as quickly as possible. "I'm sure he is frustrated," said manager Don Mattingly, who also managed Elbert in the AFL last fall. "But it's like everything else in the spring, we're going to take the whole package and see what happens. I have seen a lot of good from him, a ton of good. But that was the fall league and not here. For me, this was just one day that wasn't great. We'll see how he bounces back from it."

--3B Casey Blake got first crack at hitting second in the Dodgers' order. New manager Don Mattingly likes Blake's ability to hit the ball to right field and lay down a bunt. Of course, Mattingly will also cut down the 37-year-old Blake's at-bats this season, in hopes of making him more productive, so many others will hit second.

--RHP Kenley Jansen's job and role appear more certain. Mattingly said that Jansen will typically pitch the seventh inning, will be assigned the eighth when Hong-Chih Kuo is unavailable, and could close if Jonathan Broxton has pitched three days in a row.

--RHP Tim Redding, a non-roster invite, benefits the most from RHP Vicente Padilla's injury out of the starting pitchers. The Dodgers still have five set starting pitchers. But the "first man waiting" title, in case of another injury, is probably a tossup between Redding and John Ely.

--RHP Hiroki Kuroda started the Dodgers' second split-squad opening spring training game. Since Clayton Kershaw was already announced as the Opening Day pitcher, then based on the spring training schedule, the Dodgers' rotation to begin the year will be Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Kuroda and Jon Garland.

--RHP Blake Hawksworth, acquired in a trade with the Cardinals for infielder Ryan Theriot, split his time between the rotation and bullpen last year. But looking at radar gun readings, manager Don Mattingly noticed that Hawksworth's fastball was between 93-95 out of the bullpen and 90-91 as a starter. Therefore, Hawksworth will be strictly a reliever.

BY THE NUMBERS: .320 -- On-base percentage of Casey Blake last year. It's not very high, yet new manager Don Mattingly is thinking of hitting Blake second in the order. Barring massive improvements from a variety of players -- such as Juan Uribe, Rod Barajas, Blake and the left-field platoon of Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames -- the Dodgers' team on-base percentage doesn't figure to be very high.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't like headfirst slides into first base. You don't get there any faster. There are two reasons to slide: to slow down your motion and avoid a tag." -- Davey Lopes, the Dodgers legend and new coach in charge of baserunning. Among the other messages by Lopes this spring to his players: "Put pressure on the defense. Run hard all the time. Force the action with your feet. Make the outfielder stop you, don't stop yourself. That's how we were taught as a Dodger -- doing things the right way."

ROSTER REPORT
The Dodgers' days of throwing money at the best free agents appear to be over, and there's very little help at the upper levels of the minor leagues ready to contribute.

ARRIVALS: RHP Matt Guerrier (free agent from Twins), INF Juan Uribe (free agent from Giants), RHP Blake Hawksworth (trade with Cardinals), RHP Jon Garland (free agent from Padres), C Dioner Navarro (free agent from Rays), OF Tony Gwynn (free agent from Padres), OF Marcus Thames (free agent from Yankees), OF Gabe Kapler (free agent from Rays), RHP Mike MacDougal (minor league free agent from Cardinals), LHP Ron Mahay (minor league free agent from Twins), INF Aaron Miles (minor league free agent from Cardinals).

DEPARTURES: C Russell Martin (free agent, signed with Yankees), LHP George Sherrill (free agent, signed with Braves), INF Ryan Theriot (traded to Cardinals), INF Chin-Lung Hu (traded to Mets), C Brad Ausmus (retired), OF Reed Johnson (free agent, signed minor league deal with Cubs), INF Ronnie Belliard (free agent, signed minor league deal with Yankees), OF Scott Podsednik (free agent, signed minor league deal with Blue Jays).

   PROJECTED ROTATION:
   1. LHP Clayton Kershaw
   2. RHP Chad Billingsley
   3. LHP Ted Lilly
   4. RHP Hiroki Kuroda
   5. RHP Jon Garland
This will be the first time the Dodgers have five set starters entering the season since general manager Ned Colletti took over. While the rotation doesn't have the star power of the Phillies or Giants, having six proven starters gives the Dodgers more depth than any other rotation in the division.

Kershaw is poised to join the upper echelon of elite starters and compete for Cy Young awards. Billingsley re-established himself as a top pitcher after a horrible second half in 2009 and a shaky April in 2010. Lilly, Kuroda and Garland won't dominate, but they can be depended on to keep the team in games.

   PROJECTED BULLPEN:
   RHP Jonathan Broxton (closer)
   LHP Hong-Chih Kuo
   RHP Matt Guerrier
   RHP Kenley Jansen
   RHP Blake Hawksworth
   LHP Ron Mahay
   RHP Ramon Troncoso
Several other relievers will be in competition for jobs and this projection is not set in stone. LHP Scott Elbert will be given a chance to make the staff. Like the rotation, Colletti has assembled lots of depth to force a competition for jobs and insurance against injuries. Belisario and Troncoso were both excellent in 2009 yet struggled in 2010, forcing them to earn their way back onto the team. Belisario has been able to obtain a visa to come to the U.S and is now on the restricted list.

Of course, a bullpen is only as good as its closer. Broxton will be on a short leash to retain the job after a disastrous second half. If he falters, Kuo gets first crack at the job, and he excelled last year. Considering his injury history, there's never a guarantee Kuo is even available. The long-term closer is Jansen, entering his first full year in the majors.

   PROJECTED LINEUP:
   1. SS Rafael Furcal
   2. 3B Casey Blake 
   3. CF Matt Kemp
   4. RF Andre Ethier
   5. 2B Juan Uribe
   6. 1B James Loney
   7. LF Jay Gibbons/Marcus Thames
   8. C Rod Barajas
Since rookie manager Don Mattingly is new on the job, it's not clear how he will stack his lineup. There's no traditional No. 2 hitter available, although those "traditional" No. 2 hitters have been obsolete since the 1980s. When Jamey Carroll spells Blake at third base, he's a logical No. 2 hitter.

Regardless of where they hit, the success of this lineup (and this year's team) will be based on how much Loney, Kemp and Ethier hit.

TOP ROOKIES: INF Ivan DeJesus Jr. has an opportunity to win a job as a backup infielder. He has played mostly shortstop in the minors but profiles as more of a second baseman in the majors. OF Jerry Sands is the left fielder in the future, and the reason Colletti didn't sign a more proven left fielder is because he didn't want to block Sands' path -- or that of fellow outfielders Trayvon Robinson and Jamie Hoffmann. They will begin the season at Triple-A Albuquerque and have a projected arrival time of mid-2011 or early 2012.

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