Defense Contributes to Bullpen's Failure

The Dodgers bullpen blew a two-run lead Monday night, the latest chapter in a disappointing start to the season. It wasn't entirely Jonathan Broxton's fault during Los Angeles' 5-4 loss at Florida.

The game should have ended on a slow roller to shortstop, but the normally reliable Jamey Carroll whiffed on it, and the tying run scored. Two batters later, left fielder Jerry Sands broke in, instead of back or freezing, on a line drive that went over his head for the game-winner.

Still, Broxton's biggest mistake was walking Emilio Bonafacio (who has one career home run) with two outs and no runners on base. Hanley Ramirez followed with a single before the two misplays by the Dodgers.

Broxton, whose velocity was down to the 93-94 mph range, isn't in jeopardy of losing his closer's job. Not yet. He's 5-for-6 in save chances, and manager Don Mattingly continues to express confidence in him, even if most of the fan base will never have faith in him again.

If Broxton continues to struggle (he's only had one clean inning), the options aren't obvious.

It's not as if he's the only reliever on the team struggling. Overall, the Dodgers' 5.73 bullpen ERA is the worst in the National League and the second worst in baseball.

Hong-Chih Kuo is on the disabled list, and while the Dodgers hope he'll return Friday, that isn't a guarantee. In addition, the team would prefer to avoid using Kuo on consecutive days.

The next best ninth-inning option might be Vicente Padilla. However, the converted starting pitcher gave up a run in the eighth inning Monday, and he was lucky to escape further trouble. It was just Padilla's second appearance since coming off the disabled list, and he needs to prove the ability to warm up quickly and pitch on consecutive days.

Matt Guerrier has been reliable except for a five-run meltdown Saturday in the eighth inning. He's mostly been a seventh- and eighth-inning guy in his career, though.

Kenley Jansen was thought to be a future closer after his breakthrough last year, but his ERA is 9.58 with a 1.84 walks-and-hits-to-innings-pitched ration (WHIP).

The Dodgers need Broxton to get his velocity back and dominate again. But they also need other relievers to pitch better if they're going to have any options to replace him.

Carroll provides unique value at No. 8
With shortstop Rafael Furcal on the disabled list with a broken thumb, which will sideline him until late May

, there aren't a lot of leadoff options for manager Don Mattingly. Jerry Sands was promoted from the minors this week and he's playing virtually every day in left field, which eliminated Tony Gwynn from the equation.

The only remaining options are Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles.

Carroll has a .372 on-base percentage, one of the highest on the team, yet batted eighth for the ninth time in 18 starts Sunday. Mattingly instead had Miles, who has a .233 on-base percentage this year and .320 for his career, bat in the leadoff spot.

Mattingly's reason is because of the frequency that Carroll gets on base with two outs, thereby ensuring the pitcher doesn't lead off the next inning.

"I know it doesn't seem a like a big deal," Mattingly said. "But it's so nice to start the next inning without the pitcher up there -- and starting with one out. That's huge. That's why I like using him back there."

Nine times this year, including twice Saturday, Carroll reached base so the pitcher could make the final out of the inning, instead of the first out the next inning. Both times, the Dodgers scored runs the following inning.

"This guy might be the best No. 8 hitter in baseball," Mattingly said. "You see how many times he turns the lineup over? I don't mind him batting leadoff. I try to create a lineup with length all the way through it. If (Juan) Uribe was playing, I'd have led off Jamey (on Sunday)."

NOTES, QUOTES
--RF Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 22 games with a clean single to left field in the first inning. Ethier tied former manager Joe Torre for the longest April hitting streak in baseball history. The last Dodger to hit in 22 consecutive games was Nomar Garciaparra. The last to hit in 23 safely was Paul Lo Duca from May 17-June 18, 2003.

--LHP Hong-Chih Kuo started a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday, allowing one hit, one walk and one run in one inning. Kuo, who has been sidelined due to a lower back strain, is eligible to come off the disabled list Friday, but it's uncertain if he'll be back that soon.

--LHP Clayton Kershaw starts at Sun Life Stadium on Tuesday for the first time since flirting with a no-hitter there on May 17, 2009. Kershaw allowed just a Cody Ross double over eight innings of one-run ball. He's struck out 15 in 13 career innings against the Marlins.

--RHP Jon Garland allowed just two solo home run over seven innings in his third start since coming off the disabled list. Garland admitted he was tired after seven innings because of the humidity and wouldn't have been able to pitch the eighth.

--C Dioner Navarro was activated from the disabled list Monday after missing the first 23 games of the season with a strained oblique. Manager Don Mattingly reiterated that Rod Barajas is his starting catcher and that Navarro will get approximately the same number of starts that A.J. Ellis was getting. Navarro raved about Class AA Chattanooga RHP Rubby De La Rosa, who reportedly hit 100 mph on the radar gun Sunday.

--C A.J. Ellis was optioned to Class AAA Albuquerque to make room for C Dioner Navarro, who came off the disabled list. Ellis went 4-for-15 (.267) and started four games. This is the fourth consecutive year that Ellis has spent time at Class AAA.

--INF Juan Uribe was out of the starting lineup Sunday for a second straight day with a right hip flexor. Uribe, who was available to pinch-hit, didn't think it was serious and he's still listed day to day.

--RHP Matt Guerrier didn't allow a run for the first 11 2/3 innings to start the season, including the seventh inning Saturday. The Cubs ended that stretch by scoring five runs off him in the eighth inning en route to a wild 10-8 win.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1
-- Number of RBI for Rod Barajas this year that haven't come on home runs through Sunday. Barajas has four home runs leading to five runs. His groundout in the seventh inning Saturday scored Jerry Sands from third base when Cubs catcher Geovany Soto couldn't scoop a low throw and apply the tag.

BY THE NUMBERS: 9
-- Outfield assists by the Dodgers this year. LF Jerry Sands racked up two over the weekend at Wrigley Field, and CF Matt Kemp made an outstanding throw to third get Florida 2B Omar Infante in the eighth inning Monday. The only team in baseball with more outfield assists is the Royals, who have 11.

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"We have texted back and forth. It's just updates, the same updates we always exchange. I keep him up to date on our roster moves, things along those lines, and where our injured players are on their comebacks." -- General manager Ned Colletti, on his interactions with owner Frank McCourt, since commissioner Bud Selig announced he was appointing somebody to oversee all business and day-to-day operations of the team.

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