LOS ANGELES -- Grady Little took his office chair for the first time at Dodger Stadium and faced the hometown media's best warmup pitches on Friday prior to Game 1 of the annual Freeway Series with the Angels.

Expectations? Little confessed he couldn't think of a single one.

"If we play 14 games and come out 7-7, I'd be fine with that," Little said of the start of the season.

"I managed a team once that was 40-17 out of the gate," he said of the 2001 Boston Red Sox. "We leveled off, played around .500 the rest of the way, won 93 games, and didn't make the playoffs."

How would he characterize his club?

"We've got a lot of people thrown together from a lot of different places," Little said, "from the general manager to the manager to the coaching staff to the players.

"I think it takes a lot of time for things to jell. We've got a period of time before we reach a comfort level."

One player guaranteed to provide comfort for Little is starter Derek Lowe, whom Little managed in Boston.

"I know what to expect from the kid," the manager said of his once and future right-hander, who was 12-15 in 2005, his first year as a Dodger. Lowe had single-season bests in strikeouts (127) and innings pitched (220) last year.

"He wants the ball."

He'll get it on Opening Day as the Dodgers face Atlanta -- Lowe's second career Opening Day start. He took the mound in San Francisco last April 5.

Asked whether he'd ever considered Lowe as his Opening Day guy in Boston, Little said without sarcasm, "Over there it was hard to start a person ahead of Pedro Martinez on Opening Day."

Little revealed the rest of his rotation: Brad Penny, Odalis Perez, Brett Tomko and Jae Seo. Penny and Perez will finish up the Braves series, then Tomko and Seo face the Phillies in Philadelphia next Friday and Saturday.

So how does Little see the National League West unfolding, as his club's "thrown together" array of talent counts down the days until the opener?

"I'm not going to sit here and make any predictions," Little said.

"We don't even stress winning in our talks. The coaches and I stress the idea of each player doing their part."

With the likes of newly aquired late-thirtysomethings Kenny Lofton, Bill Mueller, and Nomar Garciaparra adding a well-aged look to the roster, Little is pleased with the chemistry they bring.

"The veterans we have on this club are top-flight and so that helps," Little said, adding that he "strongly suggested" the older players take a leadership role in the clubhouse.

"Some people are comfortable in that kind of situation," he said. "Others aren't. I don't want to put anybody in an uncomfortable situation."

Gagne ailment: Closer Eric Gagne had an infection of his inner and outer left ear and was being treated with antibiotics. The original diagnosis was a puncture of the eardrum, but that was revised on further examination. Gagne entered in the fifth inning and Garret Anderson homered on his third pitch. Gagne yielded a second run in the inning.

Carter on hold: Right-hander Lance Carter, originally scheduled to start Friday's Freeway Series opener, came down with a virus and was scratched in favor of Odalis Perez. Carter is expected to appear in, but not start, Saturday's game with the Angels in Anaheim. Right-hander Chad Billingsley will be the Dodger starter.

Freeway Fun Fact: Seventy-nine players have suited up for both the Dodgers and Angels, including Hall of Famers Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson, Don Sutton and Hoyt Wilhelm.

Fun Fact Redux: Five current Angels personnel once played for the Dodgers: right-hander Jeff Weaver (2004-05), manager Mike Scioscia (1980-92), hitting coach Mickey Hatcher (1979-80, 1987-1990), first-base coach Alfredo Griffin (1988-1991), and bench coach Ron Roenicke (1981-83).