Broxton Making His Mark

At the beginning of the spring, there were two young pitchers in the Dodger system who were put into the special category -- Edwin Jackson and Greg Miller. Before spring training was over, Andrew Brown 's name was included. By the time the season was a month old, Jonathan Broxton had joined the club.

That Broxton is doing this well this soon comes as something of a surprise to him but not to the scouts, coaches and officials who've watched his progress. They've always known he had that latent ability with only an injury holding him back from achieving this much notice sooner.

Taken with a second-round supplemental pick in the June 2002 draft, he posted a 2-0, 2.76 record at Great Falls that summer. He was on his way to even better marks last year with a 4-2, 3.13 record at South Georgia when he was shut down when a problem developed in his right arm. Though it was never officially determined exactly what it was ("Call it an arm strain," he says today), he was not to throw in competition again until the fall Instructional League.

He looked healthy then, although his bulk (over 250 pounds on a 6-4 frame) bothered some. So, over the winter, he worked out fervently, lost 30 pounds to show up in excellent shape this March. He followed that with some outstanding spring training performances -- showings he's duplicated since the season officially opened.

Reeling off a string of impressive outings, he lost only once when an infield hit, stolen base, ground out and wild pitch saw him leave, trailing 1-0. Back he came, putting Jupiter away on April 25, a game in which he allowed only two hits in seven innings, striking out 11 while walking nary a man. A callous on his finger has bothered him since but, although it cost him a turn, it isn't anything like a serious problem.

His fastball camps out in the 94-95 mph range while often reaching 97. It's a pitch he uses "about 70 percent of the time" but complements it with a slider that he can vary from 81-87 depending upon the situation. He also throws a change in which he rests the ball in the back of his palm and lifts two fingers off it. It arrives with a downward action and is termed "a slip pitch" by his teammates.

Of course that heat he throws has been his stock in trade since his high school days in Waynesboro, Georgia. But he's learning there's a lot more to the craft from Vero pitching coach Kenny Howell, who's teaching him "to work the plate and study how batters try to cheat up there. Before I just threw but you can't do that is this league. You have to pitch."

Pitch he does, so well that he's the league leader in strikeouts. Not that achieving that for the season is high on his list of priorities. No, " I want to be able to move up (to Jacksonville) about the middle of the season."

Back home in Georgia, where he also starred in basketball as a center, he was aided in his progress by his father, who's been to Vero to watch him in action. Not surprisingly he was a Braves fan but didn't particularly yearn to be drafted by his favorite team. "I figured whoever took me, it was fine".

He won't be 20 until June 16, knows he has plenty of time but hopes he's on the fast track. "I'd like to go to spring training with the big team and be in L.A. sometime next year." Right now there's few that would say that goal is unrealistic.

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