Future is now pitching for Dodgers

Times Staff Writer

Baseball general managers, by nature, tend to be optimistic sorts. Their glasses are always half full, for example, and all of their black clouds have silver linings.

The Dodgers’ Ned Colletti is no exception.

So even on a night when his $36-million center fielder was scheduled for surgery, his spark plug shortstop was told he’d be sidelined at least another week and his punchless team lost for the ninth time in its last 15 games, Colletti managed a smile.

“I’m encouraged,” he said during Saturday’s otherwise uninspiring 4-0 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. “The longer our season goes I think the better we’ll be.”


The Dodgers figure to go a long way toward determining just how long their season goes and just how much better they’ll be today when they send top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw to the mound to make his big league debut.

With the Dodgers in need of a fifth starter at least three times over the next 2 1/2 weeks, the 20-year-old left-hander with the hard fastball and knee-buckling curve was called up from the minors Saturday and immediately inserted into the rotation.

“We saw him in spring training. And we were intrigued with what he brought,” Colletti said of Kershaw, who gave up only a run while striking out 19 in 14 exhibition innings. “Whether or not that translates to the big leagues, we’ll find out. But it’s time to see it and time to evaluate it.”

And evaluate what kind of boost he might be able to give the Dodgers who, even Colletti conceded, are in need of a lift after being shut out for the third time this season and the second time in their last seven games at home. But Kershaw won’t be able to save the Dodgers’ season himself. Especially because he can’t play second base, where Jeff Kent, who will get today off, was mired in a five-for-54 slump (.093) before singling in the ninth.


Before that, Kent flew out twice with runners in scoring position. And as a team the Dodgers have managed one run in their last two games and two Dodger Stadium home runs in the last two weeks.

They couldn’t even get a double against Kyle Lohse (4-2) and a trio of Cardinals relievers Saturday, when three of their eight hits didn’t make it out of the infield.

“There’s not one player in that [locker] room that’s going to do everything for everybody,” Colletti said. “Everybody’s going to have to pick it up.”

Brad Penny, pitching on his 30th birthday, had a chance to do that but tripped up in the third inning. After a couple of quick outs, Penny (5-5) walked Adam Kennedy and Skip Schumaker on eight pitches, then gave up four runs on three consecutive hits, the last a two-run double by Rick Ankiel.


That proved to be too much to overcome with the Dodgers’ offense stuck in park.

“It didn’t matter if I gave up only one run,” said Penny, who called his stuff the best he has had in five seasons. “Those guys are executing pitches over there.”

A night earlier, the Cardinals beat Derek Lowe, 2-1.

So now it falls to Kershaw, the Dodgers’ ace of the future, to do what the aces of the present couldn’t -- prevent the team from being swept at home for the second time in three series. And he might need a shutout to do that.


“Any pitcher in the big leagues is capable of shutting a team down,” Penny said. “The guy can pitch. I’m excited to see him.”

That goes double for Colletti.