Notes: Stults gets Sunday nod
Young lefty to make first start of year in finale with Mets
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Grady Little announced after Saturday afternoon's victory that Eric Stults would make his first start of the season, and his third career start, in the finale of the four-game series against the Mets on Sunday afternoon.
On Friday, Little said that Stults would make the start and Mark Hendrickson would be pushed back a day or two, but prior to Saturday's game the manager said that Stults would be available in the bullpen, making it unclear who would start Sunday.
"Today's game will dictate what happens tomorrow," Little said before the Dodgers' 8-6 win. "We'll use whoever is available for this game in the game. What we do tomorrow has a lot of bearing on what happens today."
Stults, who made his first Major League start and earned the victory against the Mets last season at Shea Stadium, holding New York to just one run on two hits in six innings, was informed after the game that he would start.
"It's obviously the best start in my career up to this point," said Stults of his debut against the Mets. "Going to Shea Stadium and facing, at the time, the best team in the National League and pitching well was great. I was nervous and excited. It was the first start of my career."
Stults, who has been used out of the bullpen since being called up on July 4, has pitched well despite being used as a reliever for the first time in his career. He is 0-1 with a 5.06 ERA, although the numbers are deceiving. Stults allowed four runs in his last outing against the Phillies on Tuesday. Before that outing, he had surrendered just two runs while striking out six in 7 2/3 innings.
As a starter at Triple-A Las Vegas, Stults went 5-5 with a 7.11 ERA. He said that his struggles were a combination of a lack of command and confidence after struggling early in the season.
"The biggest thing wasn't necessarily physical," Stults said. "I was struggling with my pitch execution and I wasn't making quality pitches, and that can get to you mentally and that's what happen down there. But as a baseball player, you have to have a short memory and you have to focus on the things that you're doing well."
What about Hendrickson? Hendrickson was told that his scheduled start Sunday afternoon was being pushed back because the coaching staff felt he had been overworked over the last week.
Hendrickson, who has pitched seven innings since the All-Star break, said he didn't feel he needed the extra day off, but invited the opportunity to rest up for his next outing. Hendrickson is penciled in as the starter for Tuesday's game in Houston.
"It's one of those things for the long haul. We've been scrambling here for the last week, so that's the decision the manager has to make," Hendrickson said. "As a competitor, I'm ultimately thinking that I'm ready to go, but [Little] has to make the decision that he feels is best for the team."
Betemit in the lineup: Third baseman Wilson Betemit was back in the starting lineup Saturday afternoon in place of Nomar Garciaparra, who got the day off because of the day game following a night game.
Betemit is hitting .500 (5-for-10) with an RBI and a run scored on the current homestand, and he has been one of the most productive pinch-hitters in the Majors, hitting three homers and two doubles with nine RBIs in 23 pinch-hit opportunities.
Betemit, who hit .192 (24-for-125) for the first three months of the season, has turned up in the last month, hitting .500 (12-for-24) with two homers and six RBIs. Betemit said that he hasn't changed much and is just trying to help the team however he can.
"I can't say I'm comfortable with my role, but I understand what I have to do to help the team," Betemit said. "I just keep working hard and things are coming together for me. I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing."
Jerseys off their backs: On Sunday, the Dodgers will host their annual "Jerseys off their Back" auction in which fans can purchase the game-worn jerseys from that day from their favorite Dodgers players. A silent auction will take place on the Club Level during the game, and a live auction of several of the jerseys will begin at the conclusion of the game, with proceeds benefitting the Dodgers Dream Foundation.
Coming up: The Dodgers and Mets play the finale of a four-game series, with Stults on the mound for Los Angeles opposite New York righty Orlando Hernandez (6-4, 2.96 ERA), on Sunday at 1:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.
Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.