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BASEBALL / DAILY REPORT : DODGERS

Guerrero Off to a Good Start

March 01, 1997|BOB NIGHTENGALE

In only four innings, rookie Wilton Guerrero stamped himself as the man to beat for the second base job.

He went two for three with a double and bunt single, scored a run, and stole a base Friday in a 5-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves in West Palm Beach, Fla.

"It was a nice start for Guerrero," said Fred Claire, executive vice president. "He got things started for us. He put a bunt down. Used his speed. Stole a base. Really, he did all of the things that we're looking for."

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It was only the first spring training exhibition, but the Braves couldn't help wondering if they'll be playing the Dodgers for serious stakes in October.

If they are to win their fifth National League pennant in six years, they have a feeling the Dodgers might be the team standing in their way.

"One of these days, somebody is going to bust our bubble and all of this is going to end," Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones said before the game. "The Dodgers are a team that could do that."

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Perhaps nothing pleased the Dodgers more than the pitching of reliever Darren Hall, who sat out most of last season after undergoing reconstructive elbow surgery. He pitched one hitless inning and is expected to be on the opening-day roster.

"That was as good as anything I saw today," Claire said.

Said Hall: "It's kind of exciting out there to pitch and not feel any pain."

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The Dodgers brought only two regulars to their Grapefruit League opener, violating informal guidelines that require each team to start at least five regulars in spring games. Outfielder Todd Hollandsworth and third baseman Todd Zeile were scheduled to play, but they were sidelined by minor injuries.

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