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Dodgers need relief — and then some

The team needs help in its starting rotation and the bullpen. The question is whether management will spend the money to make a move.

June 27, 2010|By Bill Shaikin

It's not just about a starting pitcher anymore.

As the Dodgers demonstrated to a national television audience Saturday and Sunday, they need a relief pitcher too. And, after what should have been a glorious victory on Sunday exploded into a devastating defeat, the Dodgers and their fans were left muttering the question that has haunted Chavez Ravine all season: Will ownership spend the money?

Joe Torre did not trust anyone but Jonathan Broxton with a five-run lead on Saturday. The Dodgers won.

Torre did not trust anyone but Broxton with a four-run lead on Sunday. The Dodgers lost.

This is a team with championship aspirations. This is not a team with championship depth.

The Dodgers have two reliable starting pitchers and three reliable relievers, one of whom is not supposed to pitch on consecutive days.

Closers are creatures of habit, best used one inning at a time. They are not supposed to lead the bullpen in innings pitched.

Broxton has pitched more innings than anyone in the Dodgers' bullpen. There are only two other major league clubs for which the closer leads the bullpen in innings pitched.

Broxton blew up on Sunday, in spectacular fashion. He had given up four runs in 322/3 innings this season. He gave up four in one inning on Sunday, to the New York Yankees. That happens.

It is not news that Torre tends to overuse his favorite relievers — not to fans, not to the front office, not to ownership. If he hesitates to trust any relievers besides Broxton, Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo, then the Dodgers either need to get another manager, or get their manager another reliever.

They opted for the latter last season, and George Sherrill was terrific. He has been the opposite of terrific this season, to the point where Torre used him as something of a last resort on Sunday. In the 10th inning, as the fifth Dodgers pitcher, Sherrill gave up the game-winning home run.

"It got us in a situation where you've used all your people," Torre said. "You hope he finds it."

Sherrill might get there. Ramon Troncoso might get back there. Yet Torre quickly acknowledges that the Dodgers cannot count on a comeback from either one, that General Manager Ned Colletti cannot limit his trade targets to a starting pitcher.

"I know Ned is certainly not zeroing in on one little area," Torre said.

The Dodgers' ownership is tired of reading about the alleged need to spend money, frustrated that four playoff appearances in six years has not brought more credibility to the management.

But, for management that has repeatedly assured fans the McCourt divorce has no effect on the Dodgers' day-to-day operations, this is show-me time.

The Dodgers had planned to cut payroll last winter all along, and long before the McCourts filed for divorce. The Dodgers say the divorce had no effect on the off-season, and court documents back that up.

The trial is set to start Aug. 30 and extend through September, after which a judge will have 90 days to rule. So, if the case is not settled, the Dodgers might have to live through the July trading deadline and the December winter meetings before the court resolves the ownership issue.

The team with the largest lead in the National League is the one with the best pitching staff. The San Diego Padres lead the NL West by 41/2 games over the San Francisco Giants, by five over the Dodgers, by six over the Colorado Rockies.

The division is there for the Dodgers' taking, with a little help.

"Pitching is the only way we're going to do something special," Torre said.

What happens now is the stuff of mystery. Even the men in uniform have no idea whether the Dodgers can spend the money to get the help.

"That's the $64,000 question," one of those men said.

Alas, in the major leagues, good help does not work so cheaply.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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