Dodgers Preview

The Dodgers come into town after an opening series battle with the Atlanta Braves. The boys in blue are limping a little with injuries to key members of their roster, including former Phillie Kenny Lofton.

The Dodgers' optimism about having a healthy Eric Gagne back in their bullpen this season was apparently unfounded.

Gagne will have another operation on his right elbow Friday at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles to remove a nerve that has been causing problems. The Dodgers announced no timetable for his return, but the recovery from last June's surgery to manipulate that nerve was six to eight months.

Gagne's 2005 season ended with that June 24 surgery. When he went into the operating room, Gagne was expecting to have "Tommy John" ligament-replacement surgery (his second). But Drs. Frank Jobe and Ralph Gambardella found the ligament intact and instead removed scar tissue and relocated a nerve.

Gagne returned to pitch this spring, but he was clearly not fully recovered. His fastball topped out between 90 and 92 mph, well below his previous average.

Danys Baez, acquired from the Devil Rays as insurance this winter, will replace Gagne as the Dodgers' closer.

New kids on the block: Joel Guzman was moved from shortstop to left field and made a run at jumping from Double-A to the majors this spring... C Russell Martin lost out in competition with Dioner Navarro for the big-league job but looks as if he will be a better player in the long run... RHP Chad Billingsley will get his feet wet in Triple-A this season - but probably not for long... 1B James Loney is exceptional defensively and has progressed at the plate. He'll see plenty of action while Nomar Garciaparra is on the disabled list.

The Trainer's Room: OF Jayson Werth had wrist surgery in November, and the pins were removed in January. He is not expected back until May at the earliest... SS Cesar Izturis had "Tommy John" ligament-replacement surgery on his right elbow in September. The early prognosis was that he would not return until after the All-Star break, but Izturis' recovery is well ahead of schedule... CF Kenny Lofton has a strained calf muscle and opened the season on the DL... 1B Nomar Garciaparra suffered a strained ribcage muscle and landed on the DL. He hopes to be back in two weeks... RHP Eric Gagne will undergo a second surgery on his right elbow. No timetable for his return has been announced.

Dodger News

  • With RHP Eric Gagne placed on the disabled list, the Dodgers elected to continue with a 12-man pitching staff and promoted RHP Takashi Saito from the minor leagues. Saito, 35, had a 4.09 ERA with 12 hits allowed in 11 spring innings with the Dodgers but impressed Dodgers manager Grady Little with his stuff and versatility. Saito has been both a starter and a closer during his career in Japan.
  • Manager Grady Little has alternated Olmedo Saenz and James Loney in the fifth spot in the batting order for the first three games of the season. Little said he would probably stick with that approach while Nomar Garciaparra is on the disabled list rather than upset the Dodgers' lineup by shuffling around multiple players.
  • Part of the reason Little said he didn't want to shuffle the Dodgers' lineup to accommodate the absence of Nomar Garciaparra is the performance of his next two choices to bat fifth - Jose Cruz Jr. and Bill Mueller. Cruz has gone 7-for-12, stepping in as the number two hitter for Kenny Lofton. Mueller is 6-for-11 with five RBIs batting sixth in the first three games of the season.
  • This weekend's series between the Dodgers and Phillies will feature two of the best leadoff hitters in the National League - the Dodgers' Rafael Furcal and Philly's Jimmy Rollins. Even though Rollins' hitting streak ended at 38 games Thursday, Dodgers manager Grady Little said Rollins will be "our number one concern" when playing the Phillies. "We're not going to be thinking so much about the streak as we are in trying to keep their leadoff hitter from getting on the base," Little said. "When that guy gets on the base he can cause a lot of trouble, kind of like ours (Furcal)."
  • 2B Jeff Kent left Wednesday's game with a bruised left triceps after being hit by a pitch. Kent's arm stiffened up in the cold air, and afterward he said it would probably be just "50-50" that he could play Thursday. But the Dodgers were off Thursday, and Kent is expected to play Friday against the Phillies.
  • The Numbers Game: 15-10-3 - Dodgers' Grapefruit League record this spring, their first winning spring record since 2001.

    He said what? "I think we are the poster child for a team that needs to stay healthy. Every team says that. But to me, that's everything for us." - RHP Derek Lowe on the Dodgers' prospects in 2006.

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