05/01/2002 02:56 am ET
Tracy pleased with Brown's performance
Dodger ace goes five innings in return to the mound
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers ended an otherwise impressive April with a
frustrating 3-1 loss to the first-place Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night.
But at least Kevin Brown's arm didn't fall off, and for that there was a
collective sigh of relief.
Brown took the loss, serving up a two-run homer on an 0-2 fastball to Adam Dunn
in the first inning, looking like a pitcher who had just come off the disabled
list without the benefit of a rehab start. He allowed two runs on five hits with
five strikeouts and a walk.
But he threw hard (96 mph the high), kept his team relatively close and left
after five innings and 84 pitches without a repeat of the torn scar tissue
episode that forced him from the mound in mid at-bat the last time he pitched,
Apr. 13 in San Diego.
"No regrets," General Manager Dan Evans said when asked if he wished Brown had
eased back with a minor league appearance. "He got better as the game went on
and he gave us a chance to win. Two runs in five innings is good and he'll get
better from there."
Brown said his first game back was something to build on.
"The fact that I was able to go out and pitch without hurting is the first big
thing I take from it," said Brown. "It's good to be pitching again. The bad
thing is we lost. I'd take one pitch back."
Brown indicated he wanted to pitch longer and said he struggled "to get back in
the groove." He said he was not hurt when his spikes caught on a second-inning
pitch to Reitsma, although his scream could be heard three levels up in the
Manager Jim Tracy, whose accentuate-the-positive style shifts into overdrive
when it involves Brown, was anywhere from "extremely pleased" to "thrilled" with
Brown's work, despite a relatively high pitch count for only five innings.
"I was extremely pleased with Kevin Brown," Tracy said. "He was free and easy,
the ball was jumping out of his hand. He threw the ball great. I saw a guy
getting good extension. I was thrilled to see the ball jumping out of his hand.
He gave up a two-run home run on an 0-2 pitch, then put four zeroes up. He gets
one pitch back and we're sitting here talking about five scoreless innings. I'd
say that's a nice return."
So the Dodgers did their best to paint an upbeat picture about their 37-year-old
right-hander with the surgically repaired elbow, now 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA and
four stints on the disabled list in the last 13 months. In four starts, he has
allowed three home runs, more than any other Dodger starter, and the opponents
batting average is .303.
While the post-game focus was on Brown, the Dodgers lost because their offense
ignored the scouting report on Cincinnati starter Chris Reitsma, a 24-year-old
pitcher whose annual salary of $252,000 is less than Brown earns in three days
at his $15 million salary.
Reitsma, who has recovered from twice breaking his elbow, pitched six innings
and stranded eight Dodger base runners, six in scoring position. His greatest
escape was in the fifth inning, when the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs,
triggered by Alex Cora's pinch-double, and the heart of the batting order due
"I felt we had them right where we wanted them, with the 3-4-5 hitters coming to
the plate," said Tracy.
But Paul Lo Duca grounded into a rally-killing double-play, scoring the only Los
Angeles run of the night, and Shawn Green flied to left, leaving Dave Roberts at
Reitsma kept throwing change-ups at the Dodger hitters, and a puzzled Tracy said
his players "swung as if we were still anticipating fastballs."
"Everybody was aware of his change-up, or they should have been because it was
in every report," said Eric Karros.
The Dodgers had at least two runners on in four of the six innings Reitsma
pitched. But Brian Jordan struck out with two out and runners on second and
third in the first inning, Roberts flied out with two on to end the second
inning, and Hiram Bocachica fanned pinch-hitting with two on to end the sixth
inning. Reitsma and three Reds relievers retired the final 10 Dodger batters.
"We had offensive opportunities we did not capitalize on, and that's what the
game boiled down to," said Tracy.
So the Dodgers ended April tied for first with Arizona at 16-10, the most April
wins they've had since going 17-8 in 1984. But May starts with two more games
against the Reds, who have won eight of their last nine, as well as eight of the
last nine in Dodger Stadium.
Ken Gurnick covers the Dodgers for MLB.com. This story was not subject to
approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.