- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Rick Honeycutt, the Los Angeles Dodgers' pitching coach, said he fully understood the hue and cry among fans and the media that was certain to follow Jonathan Broxton's latest implosion in the team's Cactus League game Thursday, an 8-2 loss to the San Diego Padres before 3,858 at Camelback Ranch.
Honeycutt only asked that fans and the media would be equally understanding if he didn't share their concern.
"I'm sure it wasn't what everyone wanted to see," Honeycutt said. "But it's March 10."
Broxton, the embattled closer who lost his job in August but has since had it handed back to him by new manager Don Mattingly, had actually pitched well in his first two appearances this spring, giving up neither a run nor a hit. But when he entered to start the sixth inning against the Padres, Jarrett Hoffpauir immediately greeted him with a tying home run. Then came a couple of singles, a couple of steals of second base, a steal of third, a hit batter and a walk, and Broxton was done. The only out he had recorded having come when Anthony Rizzo stole third, tried to score on a wild throw and was thrown out at the plate.
After a reliever from minor league camp named Stuart Pomeranz subsequently gave up a sacrifice fly to Kevin Frandsen and a grand slam to Cedric Hunter, Broxton was tagged with four earned runs in one-third of an inning.
But if Honeycutt was at all alarmed by what he had seen, he wasn't admitting to it.
"Not yet," he said. "I think Brox looks at this as a work day. [But] obviously, you don't want a work day to have as negative an outcome as today was."
Again, though, when you're talking about a pitcher, or any player, who doesn't have to worry about making the team, spring training is about getting ready for the season, for honing the old things and possibly experimenting with some new things.
Honeycutt said one thing he had discussed with Broxton is moving his right (pushoff) foot from the first-base side of the rubber to the third-base side to give his pitches a better line to the strike zone, but that Broxton hasn't tried it yet, either in a game or on the side.
"It's something we're really just talking about," Honeycutt said. "He is open to it, so we'll see where that goes."
Meanwhile, the questions about Broxton's reliability as a closer will begin anew, at least until his next appearance in a few days. It might be worth mentioning Broxton's three appearances have come in the fourth, fourth and sixth innings -- points in the game that he will never see in the regular season. In fact, if Mattingly can help it, Broxton won't even see the eighth inning very often.
"The plan is one inning," Mattingly said Thursday morning, hours before Broxton was lit up by the Padres. "As you get down to the end [of the season] and you're in the hunt, all bets are off at that point, and I think guys know that and they want that. But right now, I want to set that plan where when it's the ninth inning, the ball is [Broxton's]. It's more of a mentality. I want him thinking that the ninth inning is his."
Making a statement
Non-roster right-hander Mike MacDougal, the former All-Star closer for the Kansas City Royals, continued to make his case for a spot in the Dodgers' bullpen, which at the start of camp had only one opening and now might have as many as four. MacDougal relieved Clayton Kershaw with one out in the fifth, and although he walked the first batter he faced, he quickly got Jesus Guzman to ground into a force play and Oscar Salazar to pop up.
MacDougal still hasn't given up a run or a hit in four Cactus League appearances.
"So far, so good," said Montgomery, who credited work he has been doing with Honeycutt, bullpen coach Ken Howell and minor league pitching coach Chuck Crim for his early success this spring. "They have me staying on my back foot a little longer in my delivery and also leaving my [left] arm up toward the hitter so I'm not flying open. It's been working pretty well."
One positive step
Left-hander Scott Elbert took a small step forward in a spring when he has mostly been going backward. He walked another batter, but otherwise pitched a clean eighth inning, getting a groundout, a popup and a strikeout.
Elbert, who is still trying to gain a major league foothold seven years after the Dodgers made him their first-round draft pick, has walked seven of the 14 batters he has faced in the Cactus League. But he also hasn't given up a hit, a clear sign that his stuff is pretty good when he knows where it's going.
"Scotty was still missing more than we would like, but at the same time, he got through that inning," Honeycutt said. "You see the electricity coming out of his pitches when he is in the zone. Nobody squares the ball up against him very often, and his slider is electric when he gets the proper release point on it."
Kershaw turned in 4 1/3 solid innings, although his pitch count wasn't helped by third baseman Casey Blake's errors on back-to-back plays in the first inning, so Kershaw wasn't able to get through his prescribed five innings. Still, he held the Padres to four hits and still hasn't given up an earned run in 11 1/3 innings over three starts this spring. ... The list of players who have missed time because of illness continues to grow. Reliever Travis Schlichting missed one day because of flu but was fine doing what Honeycutt called "touch and feel" throwing on the side and is good to go. Relievers Lance Cormier and Jon Link were out Thursday with the same bug that has been going around the clubhouse. ... The Dodgers (5-9) will play an Oakland A's split squad on Friday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Chad Billingsley will start for the Dodgers against A's lefty Gio Gonzalez.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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