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04/05/10 6:50 PM ET
LA gets off to rocky start in Pittsburgh
Dodgers struggle to make up for Padilla's rough outing
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Ending Spring Training with a six-game losing streak, the Dodgers couldn't flip the switch when the bell rang on Monday, but they shifted smoothly into "It's only one game" mode to explain an 11-5 Opening Day loss to the Pirates. "With one game, we're not going to lose the whole season," said losing starting pitcher Vicente Padilla, who made it through just 4 1/3 innings. "There are two teams, one has to lose. I happen to be the losing pitcher. We're not going to lose this season on one game." Padilla, manager Joe Torre's unexpected choice from a rotation with no established ace, served up a pair of homers to Garrett Jones and was charged with seven runs on six hits and three walks. He was up in the zone for much of his 93-pitch workday. "He didn't have his best sinker," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "A lot of fastballs were flat with side movement and not sink. It was a battle for him, he kept fighting his release point." Padilla said forearm tightness that pestered him during Spring Training was gone. "I'm not going to make that an excuse," he said. There was no excuse, not even the weather, which was unseasonably warm (76 degrees at first pitch). And Padilla wasn't the only problem. Relievers George Sherrill and Ramon Ortiz were whacked, Casey Blake and Russell Martin committed errors, Martin added a baserunning mistake and the offense went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position to strand 10. "Not a real positive to take out of this," said Torre. Vulnerabilities of the pitching staff were exploited the most by the young Pirates, who looked like the same team that took three of four from the Dodgers here in September. After Matt Kemp spotted Padilla a first-inning lead with a two-run single, Jones bounced a tying homer into the Allegheny River in the bottom of the frame. "He threw a fastball by him and tried to repeat it, and it didn't happen," said Torre. "Maybe he was looking for it." Jones gave the Pirates a lead by slipping another homer inside the left-field foul pole in the third, and the Pittsburgh chased Padilla in a five-run fifth inning. Three of Padilla's runs scored on Ryan Church's one-out pinch-hit double off Ramon Ortiz in Ortiz's first Major League appearance since 2007. "That was the backbreaker," said Torre. The bases-loaded situation probably called for Ramon Troncoso. But a bullpen already without Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario was further shuffled when Troncoso went home for the birth of his daughter. "First pitch could have been a strike, it was right down the middle," conceded Church. "I kind of laughed and said thank you to Larry [Vanover, plate umpire]. Next pitch was a changeup up. Behind, 2-0 [in the count], you know here comes with a fastball, so you're always ready. He just left it right over the heart of the plate, and I was looking to drive it." Ortiz, a career starter, said the quick warmup wasn't a factor. "It's been a long time since I come in with runners on base, but I was fine, and I threw the ball well," he said. "No excuses. That situation, I have to make a pitch. It's the first game. Everything will be well. Everybody will be fine." While Rule 5 Draft pick Carlos Monasterios cruised through a perfect debut inning, and the Dodgers snuck back into the game with Manny Ramirez's two-run single in a three-run seventh, Sherrill's problems continued. After the veteran setup man retired the first two batters he faced, the next three scored on Ryan Doumit's three-run home run. That's on the heels of a 7.50 spring ERA for Sherrill, who warned club officials he's not good in the spring and continues delivering on the prediction. "He's our guy," said Torre, insisting publicly that he hasn't lost confidence in Sherrill, who was unhittable after his acquisition last summer until he seemed to lose it in the playoffs. "Not really," Sherrill said when asked if he was worried. "I'm just a hair off. It's a matter of getting it ironed out. It's just the way I throw that makes it harder to find it. When I find it, I usually keep it through the season." Game video has indicated that Sherrill's incorrect leg lift triggers a turning motion, and his pitches flatten and lose velocity. He begins his delivery with a stance angled toward first base. The Dodgers had 12 hits, four of them doubles. Martin was busy, 1-for-3 with two runs, a walk and was hit by a pitch. Andre Ethier was robbed of two hits.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.