The Dodgers didn't experience much of a drop-off early in the 2005 season when Yhency Brazoban filled in for injured closer Eric Gagne and converted 21 of 25 save opportunities.
Then Brazoban pretty much fell off the Dodgers' radar the next two seasons as injuries limited the right-hander to five games in 2006 and four games in 2007.
Now he's back and eager to attempt to regain the form that briefly made him a rookie of the year candidate three years ago before his inability to change speeds effectively caught up to him and opposing batters sat on his 97-mph fastball, forcing him to throw his slider more often and develop a changeup.
"I think I can," Brazoban said through a translator Friday after the Dodgers recalled him from triple-A Las Vegas to replace the injured Esteban Loaiza. "I've been working very hard to get back to that point that I was before the injuries."
A few hours later, Brazoban made a shaky but scoreless season debut in the eighth inning. He loaded the bases but escaped the jam by getting reliever Geoff Geary to ground into an inning-ending double play. Brazoban walked two batters and gave up one hit in the inning, his fastball touching 96 mph.
Manager Joe Torre said Brazoban would pitch in middle relief and had the ability to go more than one inning per outing.
Brazoban compiled a 2.53 earned-run average in 11 appearances with double-A Jacksonville and a 2.25 ERA in three appearances with Las Vegas.
After watching Rafael Furcal run the bases during batting practice, Torre held the shortstop out of the lineup for a third consecutive game, calling it "crazy" to rush Furcal back before the tightness in his lower back had fully subsided.
"I just expressed to him that I'd rather go another day or so -- whatever it is, and I don't know how long it's going to be," Torre said. "It may be fine. The good thing about it, it's getting better every day and I certainly don't want to go [backward] with him."
Torre said he spoke to third baseman Andy LaRoche, whose return from injury to the major leagues has been stalled by Blake DeWitt's hot start, and "expressed to him how proud I was of the fact that he worked his tail off to get back as soon as he did."
LaRoche completed his rehabilitation from a torn thumb ligament several weeks earlier than expected but remains at Las Vegas and could be there a while with Nomar Garciaparra closing in on a return from a strained left calf.
Garciaparra is expected to remain in Southern California when the Dodgers depart for Milwaukee on Monday and embark on a short rehabilitation assignment. He could be activated for the Freeway Series opener against the Angels on May 16 in Anaheim.
Jason Schmidt, recovering from shoulder surgery, threw in the bullpen during the Dodgers' off day Thursday and is scheduled to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment on Sunday, Torre said, possibly for Class-A Inland Empire.