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Tracy pleased with Brown's performance
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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

Kevin Brown was just a little rusty in his 84-pitch outing on Tuesday. (Jill Weisleder/Dodgers)

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 press box.

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 up.

"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 third base.

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.

 





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