Kids Sparkle but Dodgers Lose to Orioles

VERO BEACH, Florida-- A stiff wind blowing in from center field didn't hamper the large number of Dodger prospects on hand. Only two starters made the trip to Ft. Lauderdale in the third game of the exhibition season against the Orioles, so the Dodgers paraded a flock of their pitching prospects in a low-pressure game away from home and the youngsters lived up to their press clippings.

The only regulars on the bus this windy Saturday afternoon were 1B Nomar Garciaparra and C Dioner Navarro. Neither of them collected a hit in five collective plate appearances.

The starting lineup:
Willie Aybar 2B
EY Young LF
Nomar Garciaparra 1B
Joel Guzman DH
Matt Kemp RF
Dioner Navarro C
Jason Repko CF
Chris Truby 3B
Tony Abreu SS

Playing catchup, after the Orioles scored three runs in the first and two (unearned) runs in the second, Guzman, Kemp and Repko (his fourth hit of the spring) all banged doubles. Kemp, Tony Abreu and Blake DeWitt had RBI. Catcher Ed Bellorin singled twice.

The wind took home runs away from Guzman and James Loney.

However, it was the kid pitchers who caught everyone's eye.

The starter was the (comparatively) grizzled veteran D.J. Houlton (26) who made in his first appearance in The Show last season. He was tagged with the loss and was followed by rookies Eric Hull, Chad Billingsley, Eric Stults, Greg Millerand Jumbo Diaz.

Houlton started and nearly duplicated Jonathan Broxton's outing in Orlando Friday. Houlton allowed a walk and three hits before getting the first out on a sacrifice fly. He later surrendered a double and another walk, giving up three runs in his one-inning, 36-pitch outing.

From that point on, the Dodger pitchers allowed six singles and one earned run over the final eight innings.

Eric Hull was hastily warmed up and took over for Houlton in the second inning. He got a pair of easy outfield flies but then hit a batter and walked two to load the sacks. Shortstop Tony Abreu gobbled up a grounder in the hole but threw low to Nomar Garciaparra at first and when the ball skipped away two more runs scored so L.A. trailed 5-0 after two.

Chad Billingsley gave up only a pair of singles in his two scoreless innings. Eric Stults was tapped for a run on two hits in his two innings. Greg Miller chipped in with a shutout seventh and Jumbo Diaz worked another scoreless inning in the eighth.

After the game Billingsley told the Dodger radio network, "I was more relaxed the second time out (after Jacksonville) and I settled down in the second inning I worked today."

Pitcher Added--The Dodgers acquired pitcher Adam Thomas from Long Beach Armada and he will report to Dodgertown immediately.

"Adam is an accomplished professional pitcher. He can succeed at the Double-A level right now, if not higher," said Long Beach Armada Manager Darrell Evans. "We acquired him from Winnipeg early in the season and under pitching coach, Jon Warden, he developed into one of the top pitchers in the GBL."

Thomas, 26, from Miami, Florida, was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 47th round of the 1999 draft out of St. Petersburg (FL.) Junior College. He spent three years in their farm system advancing to High-A ball in the California League before being released.

He has pitched the last three years in independent professional leagues with stints in the Atlantic, Central, Northeast, and Northern Leagues before coming to the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League in June of last year. While with the Armada, he went 5-1 with an E.R.A. of 2.91 in nine starts. He struck out 48 while walking only 9 batters in 58 innings pitched, including three complete games.

Pressured-- One thing many didn't figure on when the World Baseball Classic decided to hold their tournament during spring training is the pressure each squad is placing on their countrymen to play. Yhency Brazoban got a call from the Dominican manager, asking him to show up and help his country and initially he said he would. But with his tender elbow made the Dodgers rein in his understandable enthusiasm and said he could not go until at least the second round. Managers all over MLB are getting a bit gnarley about the whole thing and even placid Grady Little said that Brazoban had not yet clinched a spot on the staff. "I'm not sure that is the best option for him right now. There are a lot of pitchers competing for spots in this bullpen," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Dodger Blue Notes-- A new rule that came about due to the WBC has allowed National League teams the option of using a designated hitter. The Dodgers will take advantage and use Jeff Kent, Joel Guzman and JD Drew in that capacity. … Manager Grady Little 'celebrated' his 56th birthday Friday by watching Atlanta score four in the ninth to earn a 8-7 win. Happy Birthday Saturday to Dazzy Vance ()1891-1961), Jeff Pfeffer (1888-1972), Hiram Bocachica (30) and Giovanni Carrara (38). …World traveler Tommy Lasorda threw out the first ball in the opening game of the WBC. …Brett Tomko only needed 17 pitches to retire the Braves in the first two innings Friday and then went to the bullpen to throw another 20 minutes to work on his pitches. …It only took 15 minutes to sell out opening day in Dodger Stadium for the April 3 game against Atlanta. …Calgary Vipers manager Mike Busch added former Dodger minor league pitcher Clint Hosford to his Northen League club. …