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Guerra earning Dodgers' trust in late innings

Guerra earning Dodgers' trust in late innings

Guerra earning Dodgers' trust in late innings
LOS ANGELES -- It's becoming a bit of a routine these days for Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

First, he sets his lineup. Next, he heads to the field for batting practice. Then as he sits down for his pregame interview with the media he gets bombarded with questions about his ailing bullpen.

Such is the state of the Dodgers' relief corps, which is missing five pitchers -- four on the disabled list and another in the starting rotation in place of injured starter Jon Garland.

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Before the game Tuesday, Mattingly gave updates on each of the four injured pitchers. He also said at least until they return he is very comfortable using Javy Guerra as his ninth-inning guy.

Mattingly has refused to designate one pitcher as a closer in the last few weeks. Tuesday he came close to doing just that when asked if Guerra was moving into a "semi-closer" role.

"I don't know about semi," Mattingly said. "You usually don't see him until late in the game. For the most part you can call anybody like that a closer right now, I guess. I don't feel like doing it at this point, but Javy's kind of been that guy."

Guerra has allowed four runs in 11 1/3 innings this season. He has one save and a 1-0 record in 11 appearances.

The biggest thing Mattingly said he has noticed is Guerra's confidence, pointing to his unfazed reaction when called upon in pressure situations. If his stuff continues to reflect his mind-set, it will be tough for Guerra to lose the spot, Mattingly said.

"As long as you pitch well, it's hard to go backwards," Mattingly said. "But he's also a guy we know we could use multiple innings."

As for the injured part of the Dodgers' bullpen -- which is almost as numerous as the healthy part -- Mattingly offered news on Hong-Chih Kuo, Jonathan Broxton, Kenley Jansen and Vicente Padilla.

Kuo threw a bullpen session, which pitching coach Rick Honeycutt told Mattingly was as good as he's seen, and he'll pitch Wednesday for Triple-A Albuquerque. Mattingly said the biggest factor in Kuo's progress after going on the disabled list because of an anxiety disorder was the minimal pressure the organization placed on him for a return.

Broxton, the Dodgers' closer at the start of the season before suffering an elbow injury, threw a simulated inning and will face live hitters for the first time Friday.

Jansen has one more appearance in Triple-A on Wednesday, and if all goes well, Mattingly said he'd like to have him Friday.

And lastly, the news on Padilla didn't improve. He is still scheduled for surgery Thursday, and Mattingly said it is looking more and more like a long-term injury that could cost him the season.

AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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