The Dodgers keep insisting they don't have a closer controversy. But it's their actions that created it and perpetuated it.
General manager Ned Colletti implied a closer-by-committee on his weekly Tuesday morning radio program when he admitted he was concerned about Jonathan Broxton, and said he'd like to give manager Don Mattingly three options in the ninth inning.
Broxton was told he's still the closer later that day. But when there was a ninth-inning lead to protect Wednesday, the ball was given to Vicente Padilla and he worked a clean ninth for the save.
The reason Broxton wasn't used Wednesday is because of an elbow that was "barking," as Mattingly put it, and he only wanted to use Broxton in an emergency.
Broxton pitched Sunday and Monday, throwing a combined 46 pitches in 1 2/3 innings. He confirmed his manager's assessment.
"It happens every year, and you pick days to do it; with an off-day (Thursday) it helps out tremendously," Broxton said. "It happened in the past, but it never really stands out.
"I wasn't 100 percent, and you don't want to go out there unless you're nearly 100 percent. You all didn't know about it, but they told me before the game they'd stay away unless it was an emergency situation."
Still unknown is exactly how serious this "barking" elbow was for Broxton, how long he's had it, how frequently he's had it, and if this is the reason his velocity has dropped from the upper-90s to the low-to-mid 90s, or if this is why his command hasn't been as a good.
The Dodgers on Thursday had their first day off after 20 games, and open a six-game homestand Friday.
Mattingly reiterated that "Broxton is my closer," and later added, "I don't have to define closer. You know what a closer is."
When the Dodgers re-signed Padilla, they told him that he'd begin the season in the bullpen somewhere in the middle, could get moved to the starting rotation in case of injury, and might even be called upon to pitch in the late innings.
That helped sell Padilla on returning to a place he felt comfortable, after getting labeled a bad guy in Texas.
Colletti said in spring training that Padilla has all the tools to be a closer, and could end up with a second career pitching the ninth.
Padilla seems to feel he's already there.
"My dream was to be a closer, but they turned me into a starter and now I'm a closer again," Padilla said. "I had a little pressure the first pitch, but after I got the first guy out, I was really relieved. It's a lot easier than going six or seven innings. If they give me the opportunity again, yes."
Mattingly liked what he saw.
"He's throwing strikes and he's getting stronger," the manager said. "He's throwing 93 (mph), but you'll see 95, 96 out of him. He's a valuable piece."
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