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Who cares if they see him sweat?

Times Staff Writer

All that’s missing is a razor and a toothbrush. The back of the mound has become Brad Penny’s personal grooming area.

The Dodgers pitcher takes off his cap and runs his right hand through his hair, carefully tucking his longish locks behind his ears. Then he steps up to the rubber, winds up and delivers the ball.

The reason behind this seeming vanity?

Penny realized he needed to get a grip.

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“The mixture of sweat and rosin gives me a better feel for my off-speed pitches,” he said. “I grab the rosin bag then add the sweat from my head.”

It’s all within the rules as long as Penny goes to his hair while standing on the grass beyond the mound. The ritual also serves to slow Penny’s pace and give him time to gather his thoughts.

“I’ve been trying to pitch instead of just throw,” he said. “When all my pitches are working, it’s fun that way.”

Penny’s pitching has been enjoyable for the Dodgers. He is 3-0 with a 1.64 earned-run average and the Dodgers have won five of his six starts. He has gone at least six innings every time and hasn’t given up a home run.

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A common barometer of a pitcher’s effectiveness is strikeout-to-walk ratio. Penny has turned the stat on its head, however, with 15 strikeouts and 17 walks.

“I’m pitching to contact, trying to get guys to mis-hit the ball in fair territory rather than foul pitches off or miss altogether,” he said.

As for the walks, Penny said some are by design -- he has learned to pitch around batters who seem to have his number and focus on trying to get the next hitter out.

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Telling or misleading, these statistical oddities are true:

Left fielder Luis Gonzalez hit 13 home runs in April 2001 for the Arizona Diamondbacks, one more than the entire Dodgers team hit this April and only one fewer than the Dodgers have in 28 games. Gonzalez is the leader with four.

Center fielder Juan Pierre has one more walk -- five -- in 130 plate appearances than pitcher Randy Wolf has in 16 plate appearances.

Pitcher Mark Hendrickson has given up one extra-base hit in 32 1/3 innings. The slugging percentage against him is .193.

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Reliever Chin-hui Tsao has retired 24 consecutive batters over eight appearances, meaning that one more flawless inning would give him the equivalent of a perfect game. The record is 41 batters in a row, set by Jim Barr of the San Francisco Giants in 1972.

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First base coach Mariano Duncan will join the team in Atlanta today. Duncan has been visiting family in the Dominican Republic since his father died about a week ago.

Gene Clines, a minor league coach, has been the first base coach in Duncan’s absence. Another choice could have been Manny Mota, who serves as a second hitting coach during home games but does not travel with the team.

The Dodgers said Mota was unavailable because he is devoting time to a new program called Manny’s Baseball Academy. The longtime coach and former outfielder and pinch-hitter is serving as a one-day guest coach for various high school teams throughout Southern California.

He already has visited Belmont, Cathedral and Franklin high schools.

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Major League Baseball will be auctioning many of the No. 42 jerseys worn by players to celebrate the recent 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Jerseys will be available at mlb.com and proceeds will benefit the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides college grants for minority youths.

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steve.henson@latimes.com


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