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02/27/08 8:00 PM ET

Pierre to lead off in Dodgers' opener

Furcal to bat second; Johnson to start in place of Billingsley

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Juan Pierre will be leading off and Rafael Furcal batting second on Thursday at 10:05 a.m. PT when the Dodgers open what will likely be their last Florida exhibition season against the Braves at Holman Stadium.

Manager Joe Torre said the alignment is not necessarily the way the Dodgers will start the regular season, but he seems to be leaning that way. Torre has made no secret that he likes the speed of Pierre, the likely Opening Day starter in left field, atop the lineup. Torre's predecessor, Grady Little, preferred to bat Furcal leadoff and Pierre second.

Torre said that Nomar Garciaparra will start at third base on Thursday and that "being a veteran, he has the inside track on the starting third-base job." Garciaparra and rookie Andy LaRoche are contenders for the job.

Torre did not release his batting order, but he said all of his regulars will start. That means that in addition to Pierre, Furcal and Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, James Loney, Andruw Jones, Matt Kemp and Russell Martin will start.

Righty Chad Billingsley had been scheduled to start the game, but he will be replaced by non-roster invitee Jason Johnson. Billingsley has a tight left groin muscle and instead will pitch in a Minor League simulated game.

Johnson, a right-hander, will be followed to the mound by former Yankees pitchers Mike Myers and Tanyon Sturtze. Also expected to pitch for the Dodgers is former Brave Tom Martin, vying with Myers to be club's second left-handed reliever.

Prior to the game, the Dodgers will honor 1962 Most Valuable Player and current baserunning and bunting instructor Maury Wills as part of a month-long tribute to six decades at Dodgertown. During the seventh-inning stretch of each game, longtime Dodgertown employees will be saluted.

Wills will be the first of many Dodgers heroes to be recognized. Steve Garvey will follow on Sunday and sign his new book, "My Bat Boy Days: Lessons I Learned From the Boys of Summer." Also scheduled to be honored are John Shelby, Manny Mota, Rick Monday, Hall of Fame broadcasters Vin Scully and Jaime Jarrin, public-address announcer Dick Crago, Dr. Frank Jobe, longtime club executive Billy DeLury, Tom Lasorda and several local officials.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.