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Freeway Detour for Dodgers : Baseball: With opener in Miami on Monday, annual series against Angels is shortened to games tonight and Saturday.


The Freeway Series has always served as a dress rehearsal for the Dodgers and Angels.

After spending nearly a month playing in small, informal ballparks in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, where the running and conditioning far outweigh the winning and losing, and the suntan lotion might outsell the hot dogs, the teams normally look forward to this final weekend of spring training.

It's traditionally a welcome chance to get home, unpack, take a deep breath and kick up the competition a notch in front of regular-season size crowds before the 162-game grind begins.

But not for the Dodgers. Not this year, when there will be no unpacking and little chance to take a breath.

This Freeway Series is more like an Interstate Highway Series, with the Dodgers taking a coast-to-coast route.

The Dodgers lost to the Atlanta Braves, 11-0, Thursday at West Palm Beach, then half of the team flew home for tonight's Freeway Series opener against the Angels at Dodger Stadium. The second game is Saturday night at Anaheim Stadium.

The only problem is, the Dodgers have to be back in Florida to open the regular season Monday in Miami against the expansion Florida Marlins. As a result, there will be no Sunday game here. Instead, they'll conclude spring training by playing the Montreal Expos at West Palm Beach.

Facing nearly a 6,000-mile round-trip to play two exhibition games, the Dodgers might have been excused for leaving many of their regulars at the team's training headquarters in Vero Beach.

That will not, however, be the case.

The lineup for the Freeway Series will include Darryl Strawberry, Eric Davis and Eric Karros.

The only starter expected to remain in Florida is center fielder Brett Butler.

For Angel Manager Buck Rodgers the game won't lose anything.

"For those of us who remember Day One, when we couldn't even get the Dodgers to lower themselves to play us--and then finally they played us and we beat them a few times--this is still special."

Those were the days when the Angels themselves were an expansion team, struggling to gain an identity in a town ruled by Dodger blue, and Rodgers was a young Angel catcher struggling to make it in the big leagues. Then known as the Los Angeles Angels, the team was merely a tenant at Dodger Stadium, its future home in Anaheim not yet a reality.

Still, when the Angels got their chance to play their landlords in 1962, in only their second year of existence, they won, 1-0.

As a matter of fact, the Angels won the first three games (they only met once a year then), shutting out the Dodgers all three times, 1-0, 2-0 and 2-0.

The Angels still lead the series, 35-33-1.

Mark Langston opens on the mound tonight for the Angels, Tom Candiotti for the Dodgers, with the first pitch scheduled for 7:35.

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