Starting Pitchers Have the Answers

Times Staff Writer

The Dodger rotation seemed to do more watching than pitching during spring training, when opposing batters circled the bases with alarming regularity and hung a collective 6.40 earned-run average on the five pitchers who have formed the rotation for most of the season.

“One of the big knocks that we heard about our club coming out of spring training was that our starting pitching was very questionable,” Manager Jim Tracy said.

While the starters’ collective ERA of 4.29 entering Tuesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium was nearly a run higher than the figure posted by last year’s starters (3.49), things have improved considerably since Grapefruit League play, especially in recent weeks.


The starters had posted a combined 2.23 ERA in their last 10 games before Tuesday, only 0.97 over the previous six games.

“They’ve just started to pitch as a group up to the expectations,” pitching coach Jim Colborn said. “There was a time when they weren’t being as aggressive as they needed to be, but I’m pleased with the way the starters have been going into their games the last two or three weeks.”

Odalis Perez has led the way, posting a 2.57 ERA in six May starts, but Kazuhisa Ishii rebounded nicely from several shaky outings with six shutout innings in his last start. Hideo Nomo also showed signs of improvement before a split nail on his right index finger forced him out of his last appearance after 1 1/3 innings.

“Right now we’re doing great,” Perez said. “We have some up and downs, but most of the time, every pitcher is going out there and giving our team the opportunity to win the game. Our pitching staff is good enough to take the team a long way.”


Tracy said he chose minor leaguer Edwin Jackson instead of long reliever Brian Falkenborg to start tonight’s game against Milwaukee because he didn’t want to overburden the bullpen. But Jackson will return to triple-A Las Vegas after the start because the Dodgers won’t need a fifth starter again until June 12.

“Irregular work or pitching out of the bullpen is not how you develop a pitcher that has the capability of down the road of being part of the foundation of a very young, solid pitching staff,” Tracy said of Jackson.


Though Jackson has compiled a 5.13 ERA in 10 minor league starts, Colborn said he wouldn’t be surprised to see the 20-year-old right-hander pitch effectively against Milwaukee.

“There’s a different mentality in the minor leagues, where you think you’re refining your skills,” Colborn said, “as opposed to the big leagues, where the goal is, ‘Let’s win the game,’ and he’s very good at that.”


Tracy tweaked his lineup after Milwaukee scratched scheduled starter Ben Sheets because of a viral infection in his middle ear. Tracy removed Dave Roberts against fill-in starter Doug Davis, saying the left fielder was going to get the day off against Davis if the left-hander had taken his normal turn in the rotation today. Jose Hernandez started at second base and Olmedo Saenz at first base, with Shawn Green moving to right field. Roberts is expected back in the lineup today against Milwaukee right-hander Ben Hendrickson.... Before he was ejected, Milton Bradley returned to the lineup after sitting out two games because of a sprained left ankle.... Nomo is expected to pitch three to six innings Thursday during his rehabilitation start with Las Vegas.