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Broxton Out As Dodgers’ Primary Closer

With some help from his defense, Jonathan Broxton blew his first save of the season yesterday, allowing two (unearned) runs to the Marlins for a walk-off loss. Ned Colletti said today that the big right-hander is out as the team’s primary closer, at least temporarily. Take it away, Molly Knight:

Ned Colletti says Broxton is being removed as Dodgers primary closer until he gets his confidence back. Team will use Padilla/Brox/Kuo.

Joe Block adds a little more, saying that Mattingly will match-up each night until Broxton’s right. I take that to mean Hong-Chih Kuo will handle the tough lefties in the ninth and Vicente Padilla (!!!) gets the tough righties while Broxton does a little setup work (or less) for the time being. The wrinkle here is that Kuo is on the disabled list (sore back) and Padilla just came of it (elbow surgery), as in last Friday.

Padilla has appeared in two games since returning, throwing a scoreless sixth inning with the Dodgers up by two on Saturday and then allowing on run in the eighth inning yesterday when he was trying to protect a two-run lead. He hasn’t been a full-time reliever since 2001, though he had very good strikeout (8.0 K/9) and unintentional walk (1.9 uIBB/9) rates last year after several seasons in the 6.0 and 3.2 ranges, respectively. Maybe it’s the eephus pitch.

Kuo is eligible to come off the disabled list on Sunday (if I’m counting my days correctly) after dealing with that lower back strain. He’s made just one minor league rehab appearance so far, but will get in a few more this week before being activated. We know what Kuo is when healthy, and that’s arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball, regardless of hand. The problem is that he’s a little fragile after all those elbow surgeries, appearing on back-to-back days just four times last year and three times in 2009. He’s a relief ace, he just needs some special care.

I’d hesitate to outright drop Broxton right now despite the obvious warning signs (strikeouts and swings-and-misses down, walks and homers way up), but you’re welcome to do as you see fit. Kuo is probably already owned in most leagues, so grab Padilla for the time being (owned in less than 1% of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues) then pay attention to how Mattingly doles out the save opportunities once all three are actually on the active roster.