Broxton Not Concerned About Pressure

Any concern about handing the closer role to Jonathan Broxton appears to have been alleviated through the first week of the season. In three save opportunities, Broxton has faced nine batters and retired them in order, striking out five with only one ball leaving the infield

. In four total appearances, he has allowed only one runner (a triple by Arizona's Mark Reynolds) and one run (a sacrifice fly by Augie Ojeda that scored Reynolds), and both of those came after he entered the game with a 10-run lead.

Broxton has shown flashes of brilliance closing for the Dodgers in the past. He converted 14 of his 16 regular-season save chances last year after taking over when Takashi Saito was injured, then closed out the Dodgers' first postseason series victory in 20 years by blowing away three Chicago Cubs hitters.

But Broxton also has been notoriously shaky, and a week after polishing off the Cubs, he gave up a moon shot to Philadelphia's Matt Stairs that ruined any hope the Dodgers had of reaching the World Series.

"We know what type of arm he has and what type of person he is," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "This role is a tough one for anybody. But I think his experience from last year will help him feel more comfortable and more confident. And, obviously, we have confidence in him or we wouldn't have put him in that role."

Broxton hears the whispers from the legion of doubters who are still waiting for the next Eric Gagne to arrive at Chavez Ravine. He hasn't forgotten his failures any more than anyone else has. But not forgetting them isn't the same as dwelling on them, which is something Broxton says he has learned not to do.

"I have had it in me (to be a successful closer) all along," he said. "You always have to believe in yourself, or you aren't going to be very successful. To me, there really isn't any difference between the seventh inning, the eighth inning or the ninth. The only thing is when Saito was around, if I got into trouble in the eighth inning, we had a chance to come back from it. But when you're that ninth-inning guy, it's all yours."

Ned Colletti's Contract
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt declined to directly address the issue of general manager Ned Colletti's contract when asked about it before Monday's home opener. Colletti is entering the final season of a four-year deal with a mutual option for 2010, and it isn't clear whether the two sides have discussed or plan to discuss an extension.

"Those are conversations I'll have with Ned," McCourt said Monday before the Dodgers' home-opening, 11-1 win over San Francisco. "Those are going to be private conversations. What I can say is that Ned is doing a fabulous job and we're going to set out this year to win that division title again. That is what we need to do, (that) and try to win a world championship. That is the promise we have made to our fans.

"The first step is winning the division title again. ... We're definitely on the right track, and I give Ned a large amount of credit for that."

The Dodgers have made the playoffs in two of Colletti's three seasons as general manager, and last year, the Dodgers won a postseason series for the first time in 20 years. Colletti made the trade for Manny Ramirez last July and then re-signed him in spring training.

It is clear McCourt wants the Dodgers to win the NL West again -- and they're the favorites to do so -- but it's unclear whether the Dodgers have to win the title for Colletti to keep his job.

Colletti declined to address McCourt's comments.

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Ronald Belisario continues to make himself a compelling story after making the team out of minor league camp. He has yet to allow a run in three appearances spanning 4 2/3 innings, and he has given up just two hits and a walk while striking out eight of the 18 batters he has faced. Belisario, who was late to spring training because of visa issues in his native Venezuela, was part of the Dodgers' first round of cuts March 6 and was never officially promoted back to big-league camp, although it became clear when he accompanied the team back to California for a series of exhibition games just before the start of the season that he had a shot of making the club.

--RHP Chad Billingsley continues to look like a legitimate staff ace despite his notorious failures in last year's National League Championship Series. After dominating the Giants Monday, striking out 11 without a walk in an 11-1 Dodgers win, Billingsley has gone 6-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last seven regular-season starts dating to Aug. 30. Billingsley has three career games of 10 or more strikeouts.

BY THE NUMBERS
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Our offense was always going to come around. It just took a little while. We still have a long way to go. Mr. (Joe) Torre has seen this type of thing before, because he has been around this game a long time, since before I was born. Since before my parents were born, in fact, because my parents are only 49 and 51." -- 2B Orlando Hudson after the team's struggling lineup finally broke out for 11 runs on Saturday night at Arizona.

ROSTER REPORT The Dodgers offense, projected before the season to be one of the most dangerous in the National League, had yet to really kick into high gear through April 12. Although the Dodgers broke out for 11 runs on Saturday night at Arizona, they scored a total of 21 in the other six games on their season-opening trip, and manager Joe Torre already felt the need to tweak things slightly when he moved slumping OF Andre Ethier out of the cleanup spot and down to sixth, flipping him with 1B James Loney, who had been hot.

And while OF Manny Ramirez had been decent, he hadn't yet been spectacular. Through the weekend, the club was still waiting for him to hit his first home run. The Dodgers probably don't have the overall pitching to overcome a lack of offense, so the hitters need to kick it into a higher gear fairly soon if the club hopes to get off to a fast start in the National League West. Monday's 11-run outburst against San Francisco was definitely a step in the right direction.

PLAYER NEWS
: --LHP Clayton Kershaw will make his 24th big-league start Wednesday against the Giants. Kershaw is looking for his first win of the season despite holding the Padres to just a run on two hits over five innings Thursday, when the Dodgers' bullpen allowed the game to get away in the eighth inning. Kershaw turned 21 during spring training and said he had the first alcoholic beverage of his life that night, ordering one beer while dining out with his girlfriend and her parents.

--LF Manny Ramirez jokingly said several times during spring training that he was going to become a singles hitter. True to his word, he still hasn't homered for the Dodgers through eight games and only three of his seven hits have gone for extra bases, but he is hitting .304 with a .529 on-base percentage after drawing 11 walks in 37 plate appearances, two of them intentional. Ramirez has four RBI this season and needs three more to tie Honus Wagner for 19th on the all-time list with 1,732.

--RF Andre Ethier continues to thrive after proving last season that he could handle the rigors of a full season. Ethier homered twice for the second time in his career Monday against the Giants and has a .417 on-base percentage after walking more times (seven) than he has struck out (five) in the Dodgers' first eight games. Ethier batted .462 last September after hitting a combined .198 for that month in his first two seasons.

MEDICAL WATCH
: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (strained left oblique) went on the 15-day disabled list April 11. The Dodgers don't think the injury is serious.

RHP Claudio Vargas (right elbow tendinitis) went on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to April 6.

RHP Jason Schmidt (right shoulder surgery) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 30. He threw a game in extended spring training on April 8, and he was not yet close to starting a minor league rehab assignment.

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