No Body Beautiful But He Can Pitch

VERO BEACH, Fla- There has been some concern about Jonathan Broxton's condition. Nothing new about that. Such concerns have affected his draft status and were a major part of the reasoning behind his switch from starting to relief last year so this seems to be a regular ooccurrence.

Broxton, you see, is a lot more Pillsbury Doughboy than Vin Diesel. So, some scouts shied away from him in the 2002 draft. Not the Dodgers who chose him in the second round. They liked that arm and the way his fast ball jumped out of it too much to pass on him. For with him, you could paraphrase the song from "A Chorus Line", the one called "Dance 10, Looks 3," to "Pitch 10, Looks 3"

This past summer, though, some despaired that, as a starter, he seemed to fade about the fifth inning. So, they placed him in the pen and weren't sorry they did for he thrived, becoming such a closer supreme for Jacksonville that he was soon up in L.A., the first of his draft class to make it to the bigtime.

He's been considered for fulltime employment up there but this spring doubts crept in again when he arrived in camp with a beyond bulky look. He'd gotten married over the winter and there were some comments like, "I think he used the wrong training program," Heh, heh, wink, wink.

No one was laughing, though. Particularly after his first exhibition outing in which he entered the ninth with a three-run lead. Four batters later, he walked off with a one-run loss. Didn't get a solitary out.

It's nice to report that was the nadir for he's been increasingly sharp since. Maybe not enough to claim a bullpen slot but climbing up the charts once more. His fast ball hasn't broken that 100 mile barrier like he did last summer which prompted his promotion but he's been in the mid-90's, using his slider more and getting outs.

Broxton himself, believes that's because, "The adrenaline starts pumping when I'm out there. I get loose, come in and let it all hang out. I used to have to pace myself as a starter but now I don't."

As for breaking 100, something he never did when he was in the rotation, "I thought I had it in there someplace and it finally came out."

Please note that he doesn't consider that his primary pitch anyway. "I spot my fast ball, then use the slider as my out pitch." As for that weighty issue, " I think I can pitch effectively at 265-275."

Broxton's future seems tied to that of Eric Gagne. After all, Eric's coming back from an injury and they're not sure yet if he can be the "Game over" guy of old. What's more, even if he is, or, maybe, especially if he is, his contract is up and the end of the season, he employs Scott Boras as his agent so he just might get way too pricey to retain.

Thus, Broxton was seen as an insurance policy against either contingency but now that Danys Baez has entered the picture, that might not become necessary. So, some, who believe the weight issue might just be overblown, say Broxton could become a starter once more.

"If that's what they want, that's what I'll do," he says. "I'm just trying to help out where they want me."

Right now that means a trip to Las Vegas, so, "I'll go there and try to keep the ball down."

He's expected to be the closer for the 51's and that would actually put him right on schedule. For he has the arm and the attitude of a guy you want coming in with the game on the line. He may look a lot like someone who should be in a nearby park, playing so-pitch for beer but when that ball flies out of his hand, you just know he's going to be heard from again.