Lowe’s problems in Denver continue

Times Staff Writer

DENVER -- Pitching poorly at Coors Field wasn’t anything new to Derek Lowe, but the way he did it was.

He had to make 43 pitches to get his first out. By the end of a three-run first inning, his pitch count was already at 51.

“I was fortunate to get out of the first inning with 51 pitches and give up only three runs,” Lowe said.

Lowe (2-2) retired the next nine batters, but was tagged for two more runs in the fifth inning. He didn’t pitch any more, leaving the game with a 5-1 deficit and five earned runs charged to his name. He threw 112 pitches.


Over his last three starts at the high-altitude park, Lowe is 0-3 with a 10.95 earned-run average.

“I’ve pitched poorly about every way I possibly could,” Lowe said.

Lowe allowed the Rockies’ first five hitters to reach base, walking three of them.

“He started off ball one, ball two,” Manager Joe Torre said. “That’s a tough way to pitch. He just couldn’t locate like he normally can.”

Lowe has failed to pitch past the fifth inning in his last four starts.


Pinch-hitting specialist Mark Sweeney struck out twice and was hitless in three at-bats when he made his first start Thursday in Florida, but he said the extra plate appearances are helping him see the ball better.

Sweeney began the series in Florida one for 16, but he drew a bases-loaded walk as a pinch-hitter in the Dodgers’ decisive seven-run sixth inning against the Rockies on Friday. On Sunday, he collected his third hit of the season, a single to right field in the sixth inning while pinch-hitting for Lowe.

“The start helps to see pitches,” Sweeney said. “Some guys can get hits out of the strike zone. I really can’t.”


Clayton Kershaw pitched 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball for double-A Jacksonville (Fla.) in front of Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti, prompting further discussion about the future of the organization’s top pitching prospect. Kershaw, who had a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings with the big league club this spring, has a 1.11 ERA in six starts for Jacksonville.

Torre said he spoke to Colletti and that the 20-year-old left-hander’s next couple of appearances for Jacksonville will be as a reliever. With Jason Schmidt close to heading out for a minor league rehabilitation assignment that could lead to him becoming the fifth starter, Torre said the organization wants to see how Kershaw performs as a reliever.

“If it’s said that Kershaw is ready to help us, we have to figure out how that is,” Torre said.

Kershaw’s pitch counts will be closely monitored, as the Dodgers want to limit him to between 155 and 170 innings this season. Torre said it was important that Kershaw didn’t pitch much early in the season so that he could remain available to the big league club down the final stretch of the season.


Nomar Garciaparra, who did not go on the trip, is walking without any discomfort in his strained left calf. He will start hitting and throwing today. . . . Tony Abreu, who is recovering from a groin strain, is scheduled to play four innings of an extended spring-training game today. If he doesn’t suffer any setbacks, he will travel to triple-A Las Vegas on Tuesday to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment. . . . Jonathan Broxton, who returned Saturday from a strained side muscle, was unavailable Sunday for precautionary reasons.