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Gagne's Struggles a Boost to Perez


VERO BEACH, Fla. — Your turn, Carlos Perez.

Rookie Eric Gagne was ineffective Monday against the Florida Marlins in his audition to make the starting rotation, so Dodger Manager Davey Johnson turns to Perez today against the Montreal Expos at Jupiter, Fla.

The left-hander is expected to earn a spot in the five-man group with an effective outing because the Dodgers owe him $12.5 million.

Perez won't remain in the major leagues if he struggles and Gagne pitches well at triple-A Albuquerque, but that's not his focus at the moment. Perez is determined to reclaim the job he lost last season.

"It's like I've been saying all along, this year is going to be different," Perez said. "I keep making improvement every time out there, and that's what I wanted to do.

"My arm feels good and I'm making all of my pitches. I'm moving the ball and throwing my pitches good again. That's all I have to do."

Johnson is noncommittal about the situation, but acknowledges time is running out for Gagne.

The young right-hander has been pounded in his four exhibition outings, dropping to 0-2 with a 15.63 earned-run average. In a 7-6 loss to the Marlins, he gave up seven hits--including two home runs--and seven runs in four innings.

Perez hasn't been much better, going 0-1 with a 10.00 ERA in his four Grapefruit League appearances. But he had an encouraging performance in his last outing and Johnson is eager for anything positive at this point.


In what might be an opening-day preview, shortstop Kevin Elster started and went one for two Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets at Dodgertown.

The non-roster player has made the 25-man roster, and it appears the Dodgers are leaning toward starting Elster and possibly sending Alex Cora, initially expected to start, to Albuquerque.

Catcher Chad Kreuter, reliever Mike Fetters and outfielder Geronimo Berroa, non-roster players, also have earned spots on the roster.


Agent Scott Boras is scheduled to return to Dodgertown today to complete a three-year contract for third baseman Adrian Beltre.

Boras and Dodger Managing Partner Bob Daly were unable to agree to a deal when they were here together earlier this month.

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