Albuquerque Will Have an Experienced Staff

The Dodgers began the season with a Class AAA rotation that is far more experienced than their major league rotation. That discrepancy figures to be even greater when right-hander Jason Schmidt officially begins his minor league rehabilitation assignment, something that is loosely scheduled for about 10 days from now.

   The big-league rotation includes Hiroki Kuroda, Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and James McDonald. Although Kuroda is for all practical purposes a veteran -- he was the staff ace for the Hiroshima Carp, with whom he spent 11 seasons before coming to the United States before last season -- he was technically a rookie last year, as was Kershaw.

   McDonald is still classified as a rookie, and Billingsley is entering his third full season in the majors.

   The Dodgers' big-league rotation, as it is presently constituted, has a grand total of 140 major league wins. Ninety of those belong to Wolf.

Matt Kemp Blooming
Dodgers officials have been waiting for years for ballyhooed outfielder Matt Kemp to mature into the game-changing player they always believed he could be. In the club's season-opening win over San Diego, he finally showed that ability.

   Kemp made a diving catch in the bottom of the sixth inning, robbing Jody Gerut of at least a double. Although there was no one on base and it was the second out of the inning, the catch would prove to be huge, as the Padres went on from there to load the bases and fail to score at a point when the Dodgers led by two.

   "The (late-afternoon) shadows were tough, but I got a pretty good jump on it," Kemp said. "He hit the ball pretty hard. I knew I had to try to catch it or it would be a double or a triple, and that might put them right back in the game."

   Kemp then came to the plate to lead off the top of the seventh and took Jake Peavy over the center field wall, a key blow on a day when the Dodgers would go on to beat Peavy for just the second time in his 23 career starts against them.

   Kemp finished the opening game 1-for-3 with a home run and a walk, then singled twice in four trips in the second game.    "Matty has been working it this spring," manager Joe Torre said. "Last year, he was trying to find it and trying to figure out what was going on. He has been working with (hitting coaches) Donnie (Mattingly) and Jeff Pentland, and his approach has been more consistent. We know his talent. On that 3-1 pitch off Peavy, he didn't try to pull it, and that was good. The middle of the field is where he will be successful."

NOTES, QUOTES
   --LHP Randy Wolf has not won his first start of any season since 2003, when he won at Florida as a member of the Phillies. Wolf is back with the Dodgers for the second time in three seasons, and his debut this time was eerily similar to his 2007 debut, which also came in the second game of that season. Each time, Wolf took a one-run lead into the bottom of the sixth inning and gave it up.

   --INF Blake DeWitt will be the starting shortstop whenever Rafael Furcal gets a day off, manager Joe Torre said. Furcal is expected to be rested at least once a week this season because of his history of injuries and the abandon with which he plays the game. DeWitt hadn't played shortstop since high school, but he made 11 appearances there during spring training and proved he was capable.

   --C Danny Ardoin, who was outrighted last week to clear a 40-man spot, accepted his assignment to Class AAA Albuquerque. Ardoin will receive a minor league salary of $210,750 this season to be A.J. Ellis' backup. Ardoin started 17 games behind the plate for the Dodgers last season and appeared in seven other games.

BY THE NUMBERS: 6.31 -- Spring-training ERA for the Dodgers heading into their final game on Sunday against San Francisco. Dodgers pitchers allowed 221 earned runs in 315 1/3 innings. Of the additional 23 runs that were unearned, seven of them came in one outing by non-roster left-hander Eric Milton on March 20 against Kansas City, when he gave up four consecutive two-out hits in a six-run inning. The Dodgers had 13 pitchers with at least five appearances who had six-plus ERAs.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "A big part of it is the approach, having an understanding of what the pitcher is trying to do and of situations and these guys developing a game plan as they go. That is when a team gets a lot better. But at the same time, you have to be careful about too much information. You can't give a baby solid food right away. You don't want these guys up there thinking too much." -- Dodgers hitting coach Don Mattingly on the growth of the Dodgers' young players.

ROSTER REPORT
--Although the Manny Ramirez signing grabbed all the headlines, it was the Orlando Hudson signing that threw the Dodgers' roster situation into uncertainty after it had appeared such a lock that Blake DeWitt would be the guy who replaced Jeff Kent at second base. DeWitt wound up making the opening-day roster as a reserve.

--RHP Jason Schmidt is expected to pitch in an intrasquad game in extended spring training Wednesday. If that goes well, he will make one more start in extended spring on Monday, then officially begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment with the Dodgers' Class AAA Albuquerque affiliate on April 18. Schmidt is still trying to pitch his way back to the majors for the first time since undergoing shoulder surgery in June 2007.

--RHP Ronald Belisario, who made the club out of minor league camp, made his major league debut in the eighth inning Tuesday, retiring Kevin Kouzmanoff, Chase Headley and Edgar Gonzalez in order. Belisario previously had never pitched above the Class AA level. He was part of the Dodgers' first round of spring cuts on March 6, but he pitched well enough in a handful of late-spring Cactus League appearances, for which he was borrowed from the minor league side, that club officials decided to clear a 40-man roster spot and add him to the team.

--3B Casey Blake has struck out four times in his first eight plate appearances, the most strikeouts of any player on a team that has now struck out a collective 20 times in its first two games. Blake is 0-for-5 overall, but he has walked twice and has driven in a run with a sacrifice fly. He is the only Dodgers regular without a hit.

   --LHP Will Ohman, who was signed last week, began the season with the big-league club instead of spending a week in the minors as previously planned. He made three Cactus League appearances after signing, and club officials are comfortable going ahead with him.

   --LHP Greg Miller, a former supplemental first-round draft pick who once was the Dodgers' top left-handed pitching prospect, was unconditionally released by the Dodgers, who are open to the possibility of re-signing him to a minor league contract. Miller hasn't been the same since undergoing what was supposed to be minor shoulder surgery during spring training in 2004. In 212 2/3 minor league innings over the past four seasons (discounting a 2005 rehabilitation assignment), Miller has walked 220 batters.

   --RHP Claudio Vargas was placed on the 60-day disabled list. Vargas is suffering from elbow tendinitis and hasn't pitched since a disastrous one-inning Cactus League outing against Milwaukee on March 23. The Dodgers signed Vargas to a big-league contract this winter, but it guarantees him only the major league minimum, $400,000, with an additional $1.4 million in incentives based on starts and active-roster time.

   --C Danny Ardoin, who was outrighted last week to clear a 40-man spot, accepted his assignment to Class AAA Albuquerque. Ardoin will receive a minor league salary of $210,750 this season to be A.J. Ellis' backup. Ardoin started 17 games behind the plate for the Dodgers last season and appeared in seven other games.

   --RHP Jeff Weaver, who appeared to have made the club, was instead assigned to Class AAA Albuquerque because of a lack of available roster spots. Weaver is expected to be a starter for the Isotopes so that he can build up innings in anticipation of filling a long relief/spot starter role when he is called up.

   --INF Chin-lung Hu was optioned to the minors on Saturday night. Hu batted .264 this spring, and manager Joe Torre said last week that he had been "the star of camp" because of the marked improvement he had shown compared to last season.

   --INF Doug Mientkiewicz has made the club and will be one of four players, along with Orlando Hudson, Manny Ramirez and Will Ohman, signed after the start of spring training who are on the opening-day roster. Mientkiewicz will be the club's primary left-handed pinch hitter and will fill in at the corners both on the infield and in the outfield.

MEDICAL WATCH:
OF Delwyn Young (right elbow impingement) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 27.

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