Jonathon Broxton was selected to the All Star game this season for a reason — he was the best closer in baseball. His entrance into the game meant the Dodgers were going to win.
But Broxton is broken. If not physically then mentally, because this is not the Broxton from May that Joe Torre has called on lately. In his last five save attempts, three were blown. The worst of those came Saturday night in Arizona when he entered with a 3-1 lead and gave up two solo home runs in a game the Dodgers lost in extra innings.
Broxton missed some games earlier this year with a big toe problem that would not let him push off and get velocity on his fastball. There are rumors of ankle problems. A physical issue would explain things and Broxton would be far from the first Dodger pitcher to try to throw through an injury.
But Broxton says that’s not it.
“I'm not spotting my fastball like I was early in the season," he said. "You fall behind in the counts, throw a lot more pitches.
"I just got to pitch through it," said Broxton, adding that an irritated nerve on the big toe of his right foot, which bothered him earlier this summer and kept him from playing in the All-Star game, no longer was an issue.
"You can't be perfect every time you go out," Broxton said. "You got to keep your same confidence, same attitude."
Every day Torre and the Dodgers training staff should be walking up to Broxton and saying, “You sure you feel okay?” That said, it is possible the issue is not physical, and that may mean it will take longer to go away.
If so, Joe Torre has options.
At the trading deadline many Dodger fans were upset that the only pitcher the Dodgers traded for was George Sherrill, but now he may be the answer. His ERA with the Dodgers so far — zero. He has appeared in eight games, thrown the same number of innings, he has faced 33 batters and given up just six hits, for a batting average against of .181.
And remember, he was the closer in Baltimore. He knows the pressure of the position.
Broxton is certainly not the Dodgers only problem — actually over the last 10 games the team ERA is at 3.02, fifth best in the major leagues. The bigger issue is that the Dodger bats have gone cold, at least until the blowout win in Arizona Sunday. James Loney went 0 for Arizona. The Dodgers had a six game road trip and went 3-3, not great but not the end of the world.
But it is unsettling when the one guy you could count on is no undependable. And if that doesn’t change soon, there may be a new closer in town.