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Lowe’s vote goes to Penny

Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Pointing to his 0-3 record as the Dodgers’ opening-day starter, Derek Lowe said someone else should pitch the first game of the season.

Specifically, Brad Penny.

“They haven’t said anything, but if I was a guessing man, I’d say Brad would do it,” Lowe said Wednesday. “He’s well-deserving. He’s been our best pitcher for two years, he made the All-Star team twice, started it once, could’ve started it a second time. I’d vote for him if I had a vote.”

Told of Lowe’s endorsement, Manager Joe Torre said, “I think that could work.”

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When Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt set the rotation for the start of the spring, Penny was first, followed by Lowe, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. Penny threw live batting practice Tuesday and will pitch in his first spring game Saturday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie.

“He’s lined up to pitch opening day, Brad is,” Torre said. “But we haven’t declared that yet. We want to get into spring a little bit and make sure they’re getting what they need and they feel good.”

Because of tightness in his right groin, Billingsley will pitch two innings in a simulated game today instead of the Dodgers’ exhibition opener against the Atlanta Braves in Holman Stadium. Starting in Billingsley’s place will be right-hander Jason Johnson, a non-roster invitee.

Torre said the move was precautionary and Billingsley described his problem as minor. The 23-year-old right-hander said that while he has experienced discomfort in the area for most of spring training, he hasn’t missed any throwing sessions and could pitch today if the Dodgers were in the middle of the season.

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Juan Pierre will be the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter when they face the Braves today, Torre said. Pierre will start in left field, Andruw Jones will be in center and Matt Kemp in right.

The rest of the starting lineup will consist of catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney, second baseman Jeff Kent, third baseman Nomar Garciaparra and shortstop Rafael Furcal.

The two-day “Dodger Idol” competition has begun, as six players in their first big-league camps were forced to sing in front of their teammates. Garciaparra played the role of Ryan Seacrest, while Pierre was Randy Jackson, team physical therapist Sue Falsone was Paula Abdul and Jeff Kent, wearing a tight black shirt, was Simon Cowell.

Widely said to be the best performer was right-hander Rick Asadoorian, a non-roster invitee who sang Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” while playing a guitar and harmonica. “Genius,” closer Takashi Saito said.

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Martin, Andre Ethier and Jonathan Meloan were signed for the upcoming season. Martin will earn $500,000 and Ethier $424,500. Meloan will draw the major-league minimum of $390,000 if he spends the entire season in the big leagues.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


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