More trouble for Miller

Greg Miller faced five batters today, with all five reaching and all five scoring. He walked the first two, missing badly with some pitches. Given the horrendous control issues he dealt with last summer, resulting in his being demoted from Triple-A Las Vegas to Double-A Jacksonville midseason, you had to wonder if he is on the verge of a relapse. But Miller said that wasn’t in the back of his mind as he went to the hill to start the fifth inning.
“It’s a new year,” he said. “I have a whole bunch of new years in front of me, and you need to start with square one.”
Miller wasn’t the only one whistling past the graveyard.
“Greg for me has made a lot of progress this spring, with a lot of positive things,” pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “But there is still another step of being able to take it into a game. We feel like this is a quality young man with a quality arm, and he just needs to get over that hump and be able to take that into a ballgame and make adjustments within an inning. We believe in this young man, and he just needs to keep believing that with time, he can get through this thing.”
Honeycutt and manager Joe Torre have vowed to remain patient with Miller.
“One thing we have to make sure we do is stay with him and continue to talk to him,” Torre said. “We just have to make sure he believes in himself and finds a way. The tough part of being a pitcher is that if you struggle, you have to wait a few days before you go back out there again. But we want to let him know we’re still behind him.”

Braves 10, Dodgers 3

Kuroda made his Dodgers debut, getting through his allotted two innings on so few pitches (21) that he then had to go to the bullpen and throw some more. He faced the minimum allowing just a leadoff single to Kelly Johnson in the first inning that was erased on Yuniel Escobar’s first-pitch GIDP. But on a day when manager Joe Torre more or less admitted that Jason Schmidt won’t be ready for opening day, the only other serious candidate for the fifth starter’s spot, Esteban Loaiza, got roughed up in the third and fourth innings, something pitching coach Rick Honeycutt later blamed on the fact Loaiza is trying to implement a mechanical adjustment Honeycutt suggested to him and hasn’t gotten comfortable with it yet. Loaiza gave up three runs on four hits over two innings. Greg Miller then came on to pitch the fifth and seemed to have a recurrence of last year’s control problems, walking the first two batters and missing badly on some pitches. He then started throwing strikes and got knocked around. By the time Honeycutt came to get him, Miller had faced five batters, and all five had reached. All five would ultimately score, leaving Miller with the dreaded ERA of infinity for the spring. Both Torre and Honeycutt said after the game they aren’t concerned despite the fact that Miller had similar control issues last season in the minors. Andy LaRoche went 1 for 3 with a double, which he smoked up the right-center gap in the first inning, and had a solid day at third base, as well. Dodgers fall to 1-1 for the spring in what probably was their final appearance ever at the newly christened Champion Stadium (the name is new, the stadium isn’t.). And they played some great ’70s and ’80s rock music here all day long, a little Abba, a little Beegees, a little Fleetwood Mac and even a song by A-ha (extra points if you remember them). So all in all, it was an enjoyable afternoon at Happy Land.

Bowa agrees to wear helmet … reluctantly

But only after the Dodgers front office got a call from the commish’s office, threatening to immediately eject any base coach who walks onto the field without a helmet will be immediately ejected. Funny thing is, Mariano Duncan didn’t wear ANYTHING yesterday, not even the hard insert that Bowa wore, but the umpires didn’t say anything to him. Anyway, Kim Ng called Joe Torre last night and told him about the call from MLB, and Joe talked to Bowa this morning. Bowa agreed to wear the helmet. But in talking to the writers during batting practice, he also reiterated his threat of yesterday to walk onto the field in full catcher’s gear, just to make a point. Anyway, today’s game here at happy land is about to start, and it’s on ESPN if you want to check it out. It’s the debut of Hiroki Kuroda, so there is some intrigue. Oh, and they just officially christened the place Champons Stadium. It used to be called Cracker Jack Stadium or something like that.

Coaches break the rules

Dodgers 3B coach Larry Bowa and 1B coach Mariano Duncan wore hard, protective liners inside their caps during today’s game, in apparent violation of a new rule passed at the general managers’ meetings in November required 1B and 3B coaches to wear helmets. The rule was passed in the wake of Double-A Tulsa coach Mike Coolbaugh’s having been killed by a line drive in a Texas League game last season while he was coaching first base. Bowa said an umpire approached him and said he wasn’t sure the liner was sufficiently in compliance with the rule, but the umpire let it go for the day.
After the game, Bowa let fly with what he thought about the rule — and basically said he doesn’t plan to follow it.
“My question is, if I have been in the game for 40 years, then who are they to say who wears a helmet or who doesn’t?” Bowa said. “One guy got killed, and I am really sorry that happened. But to me, broken bats are a deadly weapon. The other thing is, I see more umpires get hit on the field than coaches. If a coach has to wear a helmet, then umpires should have to wear helmets.”
Last year, a common concern among base coaches was that a helmet would block out parts of their field of vision, inhibiting their ability to do their job effectively and also possibly putting them in more danger of being hit by a ball. But Colorado 1B coach Glenallen Hill voluntarily began wearing a helmet immediately after Coolbaugh, a coach in the Rockies’ minor-league system, was killed. Bowa also expressed concern that a coach’s helmet could fly off while he frantically waved a runner around the bases.
“It should be optional for coaches,” Bowa said. “If guys want to wear them, fine. But I don’t think they should make you wear them.
“I will write out a check for whatever the fine is for every game.”

Dodgers 5, Braves 4

Brian Shackelford gave up a two-run homer to Tyler Flowers in the top of the ninth, but the boys scored three in the bottom half, aided by three walks Matt DeSalvo to load the bases. Colter Bean then came on and hit Jason Repko to force in the first run, and John Lindsey yanked Bean’s first pitch just inside third base and up the leftfield line to score John-Ford Griffin, Andre Ethier and Repko. Yes, that’s right, Repko came all the way home even though the game was officially over when Ethier crossed the plate. Matt Kemp continued to sizzle, going 2 for 3 with a single and double, although he committed a baserunning gaffe when he tried to go first-to-third on a second-inning single without realizing that James Loney had stopped at third. Loney went 2 for 3 with a pair of singles. Dodgers go to 1-0. Although Tom Martin and Shackelford were roughed up, six other Dodgers pitchers — Jason Johnson, Tanyon Sturtze, Mike Myers, Brian Falkenborg, Mike Koplove and Eric Hull — combined to hold the Braves to one hit over seven innings. Of that group, only Hull is on the 40-man roster.

Opening day is upon us … sort of

That would be the Grapefruit League opener, which is set for 1:05 today against the Braves, who come in on a roll after having pounded the University of Georgia yesterday. It feels like it’s about as cold today as it was for last year’s actual season opener in Milwaukee, although Miller Park has a roof that was closed that day. Holman Stadium, well, it doesn’t really have a retractable roof, so it’s going to be kind of a miserable day. Jason Johnson, a non-roster guy, is starting today’s game for the boys. He’ll be followed by Mike Myers, Tanyon Sturtze and Tom Martin. … The final day of Dodgers Idol is going on in the clubhouse right now. If a winner is declared, I’ll let you know.

Schmidt and 3B updates

Jason Schmidt has a tired arm, which is to be expected given that his rehab program has had him throwing since November. It’s not a setback at all, but it does sort of clear up why team officials were so dead set against saying anything optimistic about him possibly being ready for opening day. I’m going to do a 180 now and predict he WON’T be ready for opening day. It’s just going to take him too long to build up his innings, so the best guess here is he comes back around April 15.
“I’m not planning on him when the season starts,” Joe Torre said. “He c“ould be a surprise, but we’ll see. If he isn’t ready, I think we’ll be covered.”
Esteban Loaiza would presumably then take the fifth spot, but Torre said the first week of camp he isn’t likely to use five starters if the team has off-days.
Meanwhile, Torre seemed to hint that Nomar Garciaparra is the favorite to land the starting 3B job.
“I talked to him the other day,” Torre said. “I explained to him that being the veteran guy, he has the inside track as far as being the starting third baseman. But we will (start the season) with the best 25 (players) we can get.”

Lowe endorses Penny

Derek Lowe, the only candidate other than Brad Penny to be the Dodgers’ opening-day starter, said today that Penny should get the ball on March 31 against the Giants.
“We’re 0-3 when I pitch on opening day, which isn’t real good,” Lowe said. “They haven’t said anything, but if I were a guessing man, I would say Brad will do it. He is well deserving. He has been our best pitcher the past two years, and he has made the All-Star team the past two yers. He has earned it.”
Lowe spoke just after pitching two hitless innings in a simulated game, facing eight hitters and throwing 33 pitches (23 strikes).
Even after hearing about Lowe’s comments, Joe Torre still wouldn’t say Penny is the guy. But it’s clear he is leaning that way.
“I think that could work,” Torre said. “(Penny) is lined up to pitch on opening day, but we haven’t decided that yet. We want to get into the spring a little bit and make sure they are getting what they need and that they are feeling good.”

Single-game tickets on sale Saturday

This is just a cut-and-paste of the Dodgers’ official release

LOS ANGELES Single game tickets for the Los Angeles Dodgers 50th Anniversary season will go on sale this Saturday, March 1 at 10 a.m. Dodger Stadiums Sunset Gate will open at 8 a.m. and fans who arrive by 8:30 a.m. receive a numbered wristband for the ticket lottery. Those with wristbands will get the first opportunity to purchase single-game tickets for Opening Day and all 81 regular season games. A number will be drawn at random, and that number will be first in line. Thus there is no advantage to coming earlier. There will be a limited number of Opening Day tickets for sale and a purchase limit of four tickets per fan will apply.

In addition to coming to Dodger Stadium, fans can purchase tickets by visiting www.dodgers.com, by calling 866-DODGERS or by visiting any Ticketmaster Ticket outlets. Dodger fans can secure their Opening Day tickets through a pre-On Sale, tomorrow, February 27, through two new ticket package offers. A six-game package for seats in the ampm All-You-Can-Eat Right Field Pavilion, that includes Opening Day, can be purchased starting at $170. An eight-game package in the Reserve Level that also guarantees Opening Day can be bought with prices starting at $80.

In addition to individual game tickets, the Dodgers offer season tickets plans, partial season ticket packages and several different mini-plans. The Dodgers will continue to offer the popular 2-for-2 season ticket plan (purchase two season seats in Loge Box and Lower Reserve selected areas and get an adjoining pair for free) and the half-price Coca-Cola Value 12-packs. The Dodgers also offer 27-game Fielders Choice packages and 22-game Grand Slam and Perfect Game packages in addition to three 15-game packages. Every package includes Opening Day with the exception of the Coca-Cola Value packs. These ticket packages are available today and can be purchased by calling 866-DODGERS.

Fans can be the first to experience the new Baseline Box Clubs during the 50th Anniversary season. Full and half-season packages that include access to the new clubs located at first and third-base sides are available now. All Premium Baseline Box packages feature seating in the Hollywood Bowl style seats, a high-end buffet that includes unlimited food and non-alcoholic beverages, and Preferred Parking passes. For further details contact Dodgers Premium Seating at 323.224.1320 or premiumtix@ladodgers.com.

Dodger sales staff will be on hand Saturday to sign fans up for any of the many ticket plans offered for the 2008 season. Dodger fans will be allowed into Dodger Stadium at 8 a.m. through the Sunset Gate located at the intersection of Elysian Park and Stadium Way. One wristband will be distributed to each person at 8:30 a.m. and the On Sale will begin at 10 a.m. Former Dodgers Sweet Lou Johnson, Bobby Castillo, Kenny Landreaux, and Rudy Law will be at the On Sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a fan meet and greet and to sign autographs.

The Dodgers open the 2008 regular season at home on March 31 against the San Francisco Giants at 1:10 p.m., the first of 81 home dates that include more than 40 promotional events and giveaways. The entire 50th Anniversary promotional schedule will be available at www.dodgers.com.