Kuo, Osoria May Edge Brazoban off Staff

VERO BEACH, Florida-- A pair of 24-year-old youngsters, Hong-Chic Kuo and Franquelis Osoria have been so impressive, Dodger Manager Grady Little may keep both of them and send Yhency Brazoban to Las Vegas. Brazoban developed a sore shoulder early in the spring and fell behind the rest of the pitching staff. When he did perform, it has been sub-par and he has an 8.10 ERA over six games and 6,1 innings.

Lefthander Kuo, seemingly completely recovered from a pair of Tommy John operations, has been lights-out all spring, working in eight games without allowing an earned run. He has fanned an even dozen batters in eight innings and allowed only four hits, equating an opponent's batting average of .118.

Osoria, has 10 strikeouts in 10 innings but it is a biting sinker that has had batters pounding the ball into the ground (he has allowed only five fly balls to the 40 batters he has faced) all spring. He has given up eight hits in ten innings -- a .222 average -- and has a sparkling 1.80 ERA.

Brazoban, who is only 26, piled up 21 saves over the season but after recording seven saves and a 2.89 earned run average in April, his numbers went up and up: 5.64 in May, 4.22 in June, 7.94 in July, 8.00 in August and 4.19 in September. He finished 4-10 with a 5.33 ERA over 74 games.

However, during the Dominican Winter League he seemingly worked out his troubles and was again dominating. He left the league before the season ended so he could report to spring training fresh and ready but developed a sore shoulder early and fell behind the rest of the pitching staff.

He has been playing catch-up since returning but has an 8.10 ERA over six games and 6,1 innings.

Braves Edged 3-2--The Dodgers got brilliant pitching and three runs batted in by shortstop Rafael Furcal in a tightly played game that lasted only 2:02 on a cool day in Holman Stadium.

With the season opener just about a week away, the Dodger starters played nearly the entire game, save for Russell Martin spelling Pat Borders behind the plate and Jason Repko taking over for Drew in right field in the late innings.

Aaron Sele worked three shutout innings and D.L. Houlton had his strongest outing of the spring, giving up two hits, a run and fanning five.

Furcal's double in the bottom of the fifth scored Jose Cruz, on base with a single, and catcher Pat Borders, who had doubled.

Eric Gagne was hit hard in his one inning on the mound and only a neat diving stop by Nomar Garciaparra kept the Braves from gaining the lead seventh. After Garciaparra's stop, Gagne allowed a double and an RBI single. A line-out to Jose Cruz in left field and a strikeout ended the inning.

The 5,791 fans in attendance held their breath in the last of the sixth when JD Drew walked and was sent home on a double down he left field line by Nomar Garciaparra. Drew slid head-first into home plate -- a dangerous move at best -- and was tagged out but escaped unharmed.

Furcal, who had two of the Dodgers six hits to boost his average to .417, broke the 2-2 tie in the seventh. Cruz drew his second walk of the game and Martin singled sharply to right. Pinch-hitter Oscar Robles dropped a sacrifice bunt in front of the plate and when the throw was wide, the bases were loaded.

Furcal's fielders choice gave Los Angeles a 3-2 lead and thoughts of additional runs were squelched when Lofton was thrown out on a smash to the drawn in infield and Drew fanned.

Yhency Brazoban allowed a double in the eighth and Tim Hamulak closed the inning out with bigtime help from Kenny Lofton in center. Lofton scooped up a single and drilled the go-ahead run at the plate, Russell Martin applying the tag.

Hamulak picked up the first two outs in the ninth, both lefthanded batters, and Jonathan Broxton coaxed a ground ball to end the game and earn his first save of the spring.

Jeff Kent had a strange game at bat. He lined to second base in the second, slugged a shot into the wind blowing in from left field that was caught and then smashed a drive to right center that the wind also knocked down into the fielder's glove. On a different day he would have had a pair of homers and three RBI but after striking out in the eighth he had to settle for an 0-for-4.
  Dodgers    ab r h bi ave
Furcal ss     4 0 2 3 .417
Lofton        4 0 0 0 .135
  Repko rf    0 0 0 0 .261
Drew rf       3 0 0 0 .290 
  Brazoban p  0 0 0 0 .000
  Hamulak p   0 0 0 0 .000
  Broxton     0 0 0 0 .000
Kent          4 0 0 0 .226
Garciaparra   4 0 1 0 .208
Mueller 3b    4 0 0 0 .333
Cruz lf       1 2 1 0 .312 
Borders c     2 0 1 1 .190 
  Martin c    1 0 1 0 .344
Sele p        0 0 0 0 .000
  Saenz ph    1 0 0 0 .263
  Houlton p   1 0 0 0 .000
  Robles ph   0 0 0 0 .000
  Gagne p     0 0 0 0 .225
  Dodgers    29 3 6 3 .254
  Atlanta    32 2 8 2 .260

  Score by innings:
Atlanta   000 100 100-2
Dodgers   000 020 10x-3

  Errors- Atlanta 2. 2b hits-  
Borders (1), Furcal (3), 
Garciaparra (2). Home run- 
Atlanta 1. Double plays- 
Atlanta 1, Dodgers Kent, 
Furcal and Garciaparra).
Left on base- Atlanta 5, 
Dodgers 6. Sacrifice-Robles.

  Dodgers    in  h  r-er bb so era
Sele         3.0 2  0-0  1  1 4.32 
Houlton      3.0 2  1-1  0  5 5.14
Gagne        1.0 2  1-1  0  1 2.57
Brazoban     0.2 1  0-0  0  1 7.36
Hamulak      1.0 1  0-0  0  1 2.00
Broxton (sv) 0.1 0  0-0  0  0 5.68
  Dodgers    9.0 8  2-2  1  9 3.79
  Atlanta    8.0 7  3-3  2  5 5.31
  Time- 2:02. Attendance- 5,791. 

Falsely Accused-- Brad Penny gave up three runs in the fourth inning against the Cardinals on Saturday and was accused of scuffing the ball by plate umpire Casey Moser. He lingered after his final inning to discuss it with Moser and Manager Grady Little had to come out to break up the heateddiscussion.

Moser, a minor league umpire assigned to work spring training games, apparently wanted to see the ball to see for himself if it was scuffed and Penny simply threw it toward the Dodger dugout, then asked for a new ball.

Protocol calls for the pitcher to toss it to the umpire, allowing him to make the decision. Moser cursed Penny after the inning when the pitcher went to home plate to tell him what he had done.

Penny told Dodger beat writers that Moser was having enough trouble calling straight pitches and he didn't want to take a chance on throwing a scuffed ball and have it move.

Penny also suggested that the strike zone at home plate suddenly grew smaller after the incident. "Any time an umpire gets into an argument and won't call a strike, it's no fun," Penny told Steve Henson of the Los Angeles Times.

Happy Birthday-- Bill Collins (1882-1961), Vince Sherlock (1909-1997), Newt Kimball (1915-2001), Wes Covington (76), Bill Sudakis (60), Adam Melhuse (34).

Dodger Blue Notes-- The starting lineup Sunday was close to the team that will open the season against the Braves April 3 in Los Angeles except for the opening day catcher which will be Sandy Alomar or Dioner Navarro. Incidentally, Grady still thinks Navarro may open the year on the disabled list. …Wednesday some 30 Dodgers will fly to Las Vegas where they will meet the Seattle Mariners on Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday is the Freeway Series against the Angels who hold a 51-42 advantage (with one tie) in the meetings that began in 1962. …Third baseman Bill Mueller and second baseman Jeff Kent will not travel to Las Vegas with the rest of the squad. They will play against Houston in a split squad game in Kissimmee the same day, then join the team in L.A. …Odalis Perez will open against Angels in Dodger Stadium, where the newly restored park will be showcased, followed by Chad Billingsley and Brett Tomko in Anaheim. …Manager Grady Little played for Atlanta Manager Bobby Cox in the minor leagues. Little also served as a coach and manager in the minor leagues, recording a 1,054-903 record. He also has a 188-136 record as manager of the Boston Red Sox.