Dodger outfielder Todd Hollandsworth, the 1996 National League rookie of the year, was demoted to the minors Thursday night after the Dodgers opened interleague play with a 5-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics at the Oakland Coliseum.
In a stunning development, the Dodgers optioned Hollandsworth, whose batting average fell from .291 last season to .232 this season, to the Albuquerque Dukes and recalled outfielder Karim Garcia.
Hollandsworth, who went hitless in four at-bats with a strikeout and a double play Thursday, departed without speaking to reporters.
Executive Vice President Fred Claire said Hollandsworth, who rejected a lucrative three-year deal last spring, was trying too hard.
Hollandsworth, who went into Thursday night’s game hitting .174 on the road, had only two home runs and 18 RBIs in 60 games with 39 strikeouts.
The Dodgers recalled Garcia to inject some life into their offense. Garcia was hitting .298 with 16 doubles, four triples, 18 home runs and 86 runs at Albuquerque.
“We need to get as much punch as we can get from the left-handed side and very frankly Todd has now had about 200 at-bats this season and we feel we need to get him into a position where he can get his stroke back,” Claire said.
“Todd Hollandsworth hitting .230 isn’t Todd Hollandsworth. I know that he can make his way back to this club. He’s an extremely important player to this organization, but we need to try to find more offense.
“The only thing that works against him is his own competitiveness. He has to relax and realize that he’s making the game tougher on himself. All the ability is there.
“He just has to let it go, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing in the world to do.”
For 5 1/3 innings Thursday, the game didn’t look hard to Dodger starter Hideo Nomo, who dazzled the crowd of 28,201.
Nomo had seven strikeouts in five innings, giving up only one hit, Matt Stairs’ home run in the second inning.
But after striking out Damon Mashore to open the sixth inning, Nomo couldn’t find the plate.
Nomo gave up back-to-back walks to Rafael Bournigal and Geronimo Berroa and hit Mark McGwire on a two-and-two pitch to load the bases.
After getting two strikes on Jose Canseco, Nomo threw four consecutive balls to force in Bournigal and force Manager Bill Russell to pull him.
Reliever Mark Guthrie gave up a two-run single by pinch-hitter Patrick Lennon off first baseman Eric Karros’ glove and an RBI double to catcher Brent Mayne as the Athletics took a 5-2 lead.
Brett Butler, who has hit in seven of nine games since returning from the disabled list on June 3, tripled in catcher Tom Prince, who had led off the seventh inning with a single, and Wilton Guerrero’s sacrifice fly scored Butler to cut the deficit to one run.
A’s reliever Bill Taylor struck out pinch-hitter Eric Anthony and Greg Gagne and got Butler to ground out in the ninth to register his 12th save.
Nomo (6-6), started fast, striking out four of the first five batters he faced before Stairs’ 400-foot shot to center gave the Athletics a 1-0 lead.
The Dodgers, who had four home runs in Wednesday’s 10-5 win over Houston, scored their first run by playing little ball.
Prince, starting his eighth game of the season, and Gagne, who was batting ninth, put together back-to-back one-out singles in the fifth inning and Butler drove in Prince when he grounded out to second.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the sixth when Raul Mondesi singled in Mike Piazza, who reached second on a fielding error by right fielder Canseco.
Mondesi, who stole third after taking second on the throw, was thrown out at the plate by shortstop Bournigal when he tried to score on Karros’ one-out ground ball to short.
Russell, who hadn’t been here since the 1988 World Series, did a double take when he walked onto the field before the game and was engulfed by a horde of reporters.
“You see a lot of media attention,” Russell said. “The fans are out here early.”