Notes: Dodgers readying for Johnson
Loney in company with Ruth; Mueller staying as coach for now
PHOENIX -- It's no coincidence that Randy Johnson comes off the disabled list Thursday, just in time to face the first-place Dodgers instead of Friday against the last-place Giants.Having played behind Johnson for six seasons with the Diamondbacks, Dodgers outfielder Luis Gonzalez offers these suggestions on how to beat the five-time Cy Young Award winner. "He'll be on a pitch count, so we need to take some pitches and get his count up and get him out of there," said Gonzalez. "Their bullpen has been scuffling, so we need to get to them. Randy's coming off a bad back. We need to make him move around, get him off the mound, drop a bunt or two, frustrate him. He gets into a rhythm and he's tough to beat. When he's in that zone, it's hard to get him out of it." Manager Grady Little said he hadn't settled on a lineup for Thursday, but that it would include three left-handed hitters. New first baseman James Loney, who has never faced Johnson, is one. There also figures to be two of three left-handed-hitting outfielders -- Juan Pierre, Andre Ethier and Gonzalez. He said he's thinking of starting Matt Kemp at the other outfield spot. Kemp has never faced Johnson. Gonzalez is 0-for-3 lifetime against Johnson with three strikeouts and a walk. "But that was before I turned things around," he said, referring to pre-1998. Pierre is 5-for-28 against Johnson and Ethier has never faced him. The only Dodger with a career average against Johnson higher than .231 is Rafael Furcal at .385. Nomar Garciaparra is the only Dodger with a home run against Johnson, but he's only 3-for-15 with seven strikeouts. Jeff Kent is 6-for-34 with 15 strikeouts. The highest on-base percentage against Johnson is starting pitcher Randy Wolf, who is 0-for-1 with a walk. Loney and Babe: Loney's .662 slugging percentage is second all-time to Babe Ruth (.690) among all players with 100 or more plate appearances, according to SABR's Eric Enders. Among those just behind the rookie first basemen are Ted Williams (.634), Lou Gehrig (.632), Albert Pujols (.621), Ryan Howard (.611) Jimmie Foxx (.609) and Barry Bonds (.608). Since last July 29, Loney is batting .375 (36-for-96), the third-highest average of any Major Leaguer with more than 100 plate appearances during that span behind Willie Harris (.383) and Marlon Byrd (.380). Tsao's rehab: Pitching for Triple-A Las Vegas, Chin-hui Tsao allowed one run on two hits with two strikeouts Wednesday night. Tsao is close to returning from a shoulder injury.
Bullpen awaiting: Tsao could be activated quickly because Little is, shall we say, eager for his return."Very," said Little earlier Wednesday. "Very. I suspect we'll not waste too many bullets in Las Vegas." Moving Chad Billingsley from the bullpen to the starting rotation has removed a key arm from the middle innings. It didn't show Tuesday night, even though Billingsley pitched only four innings, because four relievers (Rudy Seanez, Mark Hendrickson, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito) pitched six scoreless innings. "Chad did leave a little void," said Little. "It's time for everyone to step up and last night indicates that's taking place." Adkins agrees: The Dodgers have agreed to terms with supplemental first-round pick James Adkins. The left-handed pitcher was selected 39th overall in the First-Year Player Draft earlier this month. No news on hitting coach: Bill Mueller continues to serve as interim hitting coach and neither Little nor general manager Ned Colletti indicated that was likely to change any time soon. "We're going forward like this for the time being," said Little. "There's a lot of evaluating going on. We're evaluating him. He's evaluating us. He's evaluating the job." Read it: The Dodgers and several local city public libraries will reward children who read "just for fun" in the libraries' annual Summer Reading Program. Participating Southern California libraries include Burbank, Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Monica, South Pasadena, Torrance and Whittier. Children participating in each of these local reading programs can earn their tickets to the Dodgers game on Sunday, Aug. 5, against the Diamondbacks by fulfilling reading program guidelines set by their local library. "The Los Angeles Dodgers along with local city public libraries are pleased to continue our commitment to education through our annual Summer Reading Program," said Dodgers senior vice president of public affairs Howard Sunkin. "The perfect way to advocate summer reading is to offer a fun incentive such as a ticket to a Dodger game, which will hopefully build a yearlong interest in reading 'just for fun.' " Coming up: In Thursday afternoon's trip finale, Wolf (8-6, 4.32) opposes Johnson (4-2, 3.52).
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.