Another lineup shuffle, maybe the most interesting yet

For starters, here it is

SS Furcal
C Martin
3B Nomar
2B Kent
LF Ethier
RF Kemp
1B Loney
CF Jones
RH Penny

Joe said he considered Andruw second and Martin eighth, but figured this would give Martin a better chance. “He is grinding the (heck) out of the bat, and I want to see if we can help him on the timing part of it,” Torre said. Other than that, Joe wanted experienced guys in the middle of the order and a left-right-left stagger after that. He considered going with JP in left because he has swung the bat well lately, but, “I figured in this cozy ballpark, the other three guys might reach the seats. That’s how technical that was.” … Also, Jason Schmidt threw a 50-pitch side session and will throw one more on the homestand, then perhaps throw a couple of simulated games on the next trip. That would put him on target to begin a rehab assignment in early May, and Torre said that assignment will likely go the full 30 days. So the earliest Schmidt would return would be early June.

Help on the way?

Within minutes of my arrival in the Cincinnati press box today, the Reds announced that they had designated for assignment their longtime backup shortstop, Juan Castro, to clear a roster spot. The club has 10 days to trade, release or outright him, but there could be some interest on the Dodgers’ part. Castro, you may recall, spent nine years in the Dodgers organization, the last five of them constantly shuttling back and forth between Los Angeles and Triple-A Albuquerque. He would NOT be a cure for what ails this offense — he entered the season with a .231 career average and is 0 for 10 in 2008. But he is a gifted utility infielder, a veteran who can play all four position, he is a GREAT guy in the clubhouse, and he would allow the Dodgers to ship Chin-lung Hu back to the minors where he could get regular playing time instead of having him waste away in the majors the way he is now. Of course, this is all pure speculation on my part, When a player is designated, ANYTHING can happen. Even if the Dodgers are interested, there might be 15 other teams interested as well, and for now, the Reds hold all the cards.

Braves 6, Dodgers 1

On the flight down here from LAX on Thursday, I tried to watch a movie called Walk Hard: the Dewey Cox Story. Before falling asleep about halfway through, I caught an exchange between John C. Reilly’s Dewey Cox charater and the character’s wife, which I seem to recall was in the movie’s trailer, in which the wife said, “It’s not that I don’t believe in you Dewey. I just know you’re going to fail.” Right now, that pretty much sums up the feeling you get whenever a Dodgers player — any Dodgers player — steps into the batter’s box with a runner in scoring position. The boys went 1 for 22 w/RISP in this three-game whitewash at the hands of the once-mighty Braves, scoring a run in each game. ONE FOR TWENTY-TWO. It was 0 for 10 today, with four strikeouts. There was the usual mantra in the clubhouse about it being early, about it being a long season. But right now, this team is a long, long way from being good. … Dodgers fall to 7-11, and for the record, they were NEVER four games under .500 at any point last season. They also fell into the division basement. Hey, only 144 games to go.

The lineup and some other stuff

Pierre is playing, the suddenly slugging Jones is in the cleanup spot, Kent, Kemp and Nomar are sitting.

Furcal 6
Pierre 7
Loney 3
Jones 8
Ethier 9
Martin 2
DeWitt 5
Hu 4
Kuroda 1

By the way, one word I haven’t heard mentioned since we hit town on Thursday is “tornado,” but there is still plenty of evidence around downtown after that big one hit last month. The window of my room, on the 43rd floor of the Westin, looks directly across at the GP building and the Equitable building, two of the tallest structures in the Atlanta skyline, and both of them have dozens of boarded up windows, especially on the upper floors. I’m wondering if anyone was actually on those floors when those windows blew out, and what that must have been like. … Just a thought, but I think the question has to be asked whether Nomar needed a longer rehab assignment. He is 1 for 10 (zero for his past nine) at the plate, and yesterday, he made three fielding gaffes (only one was an error, but one of the non-errors cost the Dodgers two runs). After the game, Torre said Nomar was “still getting his legs under him.” When I pressed him and asked if that suggested he should have had a longer rehab — because, really, when you come off the DL to play in games that actually count, your legs should be under you by then, IMHO — Torre seemed to push it off on Nomar, saying that with veteran players, you have to trust them to tell you when they’re ready.

Braves 4, Dodgers 1

There will be plenty of negative assessment in the coverage in tomorrow’s paper, so I’ll stick with the only good news here … Andruw Jones finally has his first home run in a Dodgers uniform. He hit it with two outs in the second inning, on a changeup from Chuck James. He now has 167 career HRs at the Ted, second only to Chipper Jones, who now has 175. … Tough day for Chad Billingsley, who managed to strike out nine of the first 18 batters he faced before the wheels came off in the fifth. This from Torre, which didn’t make the paper tomorrow: “In a lot of these games this year, we have put a lot of pressure on our pitchers because we haven’t scored runs on a regular basis.” Ya think? … Dodgers fall to 7-10 and are now just a half-game up on the cellar-dwelling Giants in the NL West. See ya tomorrow

Martin scratched and not happy about it

The move was made minutes before the start of batting practice. Torre said it was partly about Russ’ recent offensive performance and partly about the need to create playing time for Gary Bennett.
Asked about the move as he walked down the tunnel from the clubhouse to the dugout for batting practice, Martin said, “I guess I’m getting a day off.”
Torre later admitted that Martin was upset when given the news
“(Martin) wasn’t happy, and I didn’t expect him to be,” Torre said. “When I talked to him the first time in spring training, trying to find some formula for resting him, he didn’t want to have the conversation about it. It’s definitely all feel now. If you want him in August and September, I think it’s important we (rest him).”
Martin is off to a rough start offensively, batting .196, and although Torre says he saw improvement on the homestand, he also says he saw Russ backslide on Friday night, when he went 0 for 3 with a walk and made an ill-advised attempt to steal second in the fourth inning, only to get thrown out easily.
The Dodgers trailed 2-0 at the time, with Andruw Jones at the plate and one out.
When someone asked Torre after that game what Russ was thinking, he said, “That’s what I asked him. He just got a bad start. He was trying to make something happen.”

The lineup

Same as last night, except Kemp/Ethier are flipped. By the way, a lot of you have been emailing me to make me aware of the commenting issues, and I have forwarded every one of those emails to the tech boys back at the office. I’m not sure when this will be resolved, but I am fully confident that it’s coming. At any rate, I appreciate your patience. I have stated here many times that a blog is only as good as the reader comments it elicits, and the whole point of a blog is to be interactive. Hopefully, this won’t be an issue much longer.

Furcal 6
Ethier 7
Kemp 9
Kent 4
Loney 3
Martin 2
Jones 8
Garciaparra 5
Billingsley 1

Four away from 3k

The ballpark gates aren’t open yet, but the out-of-town scoreboard in right field is displaying the number 2,996, which is John Smoltz’s career strikeout total. Not sure why. There is no one in the ballpark to see it (other than a few of use early-arriving scribes), and Smoltz isn’t even pitching in this series. … Going to be a hot one here, but nothing like it would be if this were, say, July. And the 4 o’clock start local time will help, as well. It’s technically a day game (anything that starts before 5), but by the time it’s over, the lights will be on and the sun will be setting. … I’ll check back in when (if) I have some news.

Braves 6, Dodgers 1

Nothing went right for the boys, who just seemed flat from the start — well, maybe not from the start, but after they blew a bases-loaded, one out situation in the first inning. Jeff Bennett shut them out for 4 2/3 innings, and four Braves relievers limited them to three hits the rest of the way. Dodgers went 1 for 8 w/RISP. Jeff Kent was a busy man, with six assists and two putouts, but it was the one assist he couldn’t make in the second inning — Mark Teixeira led off with a one-hopper that scooted past Kent for an error — that opened the door for two unearned runs in the inning. Not that Derek Lowe was an innocent victim. He clearly got frustrated in the fifth inning and tried to overthrow. The result was that he walked the first two batters in the inning. Chipper Jones then did what Chipper Jones always seems to do these days, shooting Lowe’s first pitch into the left-centerfield stands, giving the Braves a 5-0 lead. Jones would later homer again, giving him four in two days, and his league-leading average now stands at .455. … Tom Glavine went on the DL for the first time in his 22-year career tonight, so he will NOT oppose Chad Billingsley this afternoon as scheduled. Instead, it will be Chuck James, whose name for some reason has always sounded to me like it would be better suited to a jazz musician than a big-league pitcher. Can’t you just hear it? “You’re listening to the smooooooth sounds of Chuck James.” … Furcal and Andruw were both OK after their centerfield collision, and D-Lowe was fine after being hit in the right foot by that comebacker. Dodgers, however, are NOT fine. They fall to 7-9 and five back of the Snakes in the NL West. They also fall into fourth place because the Rockies, who apparently weren’t all that tired after taking 22 innings to win last night, managed to cruise to a win at Houston. … Hasta manana

A smattering of boos, but mostly cheers …

… for Andruw Jones when he came to the plate for the first time to lead off the second inning here in the ballpark where he became a star over the past 11 seasons. But they cheered really loudly after he struck out on three pitches … By the way, here’s a LaRoche update:

Dodgers third baseman Andy LaRoche appears on track to return in early to mid-May.
LaRoche will leave Sunday for Vero Beach, Fla., and a two-day stint in extended spring training. He said the tentative plan is for him to test his surgically repaired right thumb by getting about 18 at-bats in two loosely structured games there, then begin a minor-league rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Jacksonville, probably on Wednesday. He is slated to begin playing third base on his second day there.
Rehab assignments for position players are limited to 20 days, suggesting LaRoche will return no later than sometime on a six-game trip to Milwaukee and Anaheim beginning May 13.

Oh, and they added about three rows of premium seating directly behind home plate on the field level, dramatically cutting down on the foul ground here. I’m told Turner Field now has the shortest distance in the N.L. between home plate and the backstop. The old backstop was flush with the front of the dugouts, but the new seats jut forward from the dugouts. … Oh (again), and Don Mattingly is here for his first scheduled in-season visit. He’ll be with the club through the Cincinnati series, just observing the hitters and offering his input. He threw some BP before the game tonight.