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Lankford Not Complacent

Maybe when the season ends, Frank Lankford will reflect on his accomplishment.

But for now, the Dodger right-hander has work to do. So Lankford won’t allow himself to be too pleased because he made the opening-day roster after being selected in the Rule V draft.

“Not a lot of Rule V guys make it this far, so I obviously feel good about what I’ve done,” said Lankford, who was plucked from the New York Yankee organization in December.

“But it’s been a long road, with a lot of hard work, so the last thing I want to do now is to start congratulating myself about the fact I made it to this point. That just wouldn’t be smart.”

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Lankford and right-hander Marc Deschenes, who was returned to the Cleveland Indians during spring training, were selected in the draft to compete for two open spots in the bullpen. Lankford, 27, was impressive at times, the Dodgers said, and went 1-2 with a 4.19 earned-run average in the exhibition season.

“Once he got settled, he showed us a lot,” pitching coach Glenn Gregson said. “Now, he has to keep on improving on the things that helped him earn a spot on this team.”

Lankford is motivated.

“The last thing I’m going to do now is sit back and get complacent,” he said. “This is the opportunity I have been hoping for, and I’m not going to waste it.”

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The Dodgers have been notoriously slow starters, and are burned out by September after making their annual season-ending drives.

The key is to play well from the beginning, Manager Bill Russell said.

“We lost the division [title] last year in April and May as much as in September,” said Russell, whose team was 23-22 on May 23.

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“Everyone likes to talk about what happened in September, but we didn’t get it done early and that hurt us down the road. We need to get out to a better start this season, and everyone is focused on that.”

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Trenidad Hubbard, who was signed as a free agent in the off-season, will start in center field in place of Roger Cedeno, who is on the 15-day disabled list. Hubbard, who played in seven games with the Indians last season, hit .217 with two home runs and seven runs batted in during spring training. . . . Ramon Martinez is making his fourth consecutive opening-day start and fifth overall. . . . The Cardinals lead the all-time series, 903-902.

ON DECK

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* Opponent--St. Louis Cardinals, two games.

* Site--Busch Stadium, St. Louis.

* Today--1 p.m. PST.

* TV--KTLA Channel 5.

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* Radio--AM 1150, KWKW (1330).

* 1997 records--Dodgers 88-74, Cardinals 73-89.

* Record vs. Cardinals--(1997) 5-6.

TODAY

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DODGERS’ RAMON MARTINEZ (10-5, 3.64 ERA)

vs.

CARDINALS’ TODD STOTTLEMYRE (12-9, 3.88 ERA)

* Update--This will be the Dodgers’ 41st season in Los Angeles, but the old neighborhood has changed. Longtime owner Peter O’Malley sold the ballclub to the Fox Group on March 19, and the Dodgers realize things are different. But it’s time to play, and they say it won’t just be business as usual on the field either. “We have a group of veteran guys in this clubhouse who have dedicated themselves to getting everything we can out of ourselves this season,” third baseman Todd Zeile said. “Not that we weren’t focused last year, but I just think we’re even more focused now. You saw it from the beginning of spring training, and now we have to go out and build on what we did.” The Dodgers went 18-10-1 in the exhibition season, and are expected to again challenge for the National League West title. They will miss veteran first baseman Eric Karros, who is on the 15-day disabled list after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, but they believe touted rookie Paul Konerko is the real deal. The Cardinals are expected to run away with the Central Division title, but their pitching staff begins the season in disarray. Starters Alan Benes, Matt Morris and Donovan Osborne and closer Jeff Brantley are on the disabled list. The Cardinals traded reliever Rigo Beltran to the New York Mets for reliever Juan Acevedo on Sunday. Catcher Tom Pagnozzi, among the game’s best defensively, is expected to miss the opener because of a sore shoulder. Tom Lampkin is expected to start in his place.

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* Thursday, 10:40 a.m. PST--Chan Ho Park (14-8, 3.38) vs. Cliff Politte (0-0, 0.00).


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