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DODGER REPORT

Fast Roberts Off to Slow Start

April 11, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna

SAN FRANCISCO — Dave Roberts knocked in a key insurance run in the seventh inning with a bloop single to left field Tuesday night, but that wasn't the swing the Dodger leadoff batter remembered most about that at-bat. Just before delivering his hit, Roberts flailed at a shoulder-high fastball from Giant pitcher Russ Ortiz.

"I don't swing at balls like that," Roberts said Wednesday. "I don't want to say I'm pressing, but that just shows I am. That's why I'm getting to the park so early [1:30 p.m. for a 7:15 p.m. game]. I've got to get comfortable."

Roberts was impressive in his Dodger debut, going two for four with a double, two runs and a stolen base in a 9-2 loss to the Giants on April 2, but in his next six games, Roberts had only two hits in 16 at-bats.

He took a .200 average and a .273 on-base percentage into Wednesday night's game against San Francisco and had drawn only two walks, not the kind of production the Dodgers envisioned from the leadoff spot.

As a result, Roberts hasn't been able to use his most valuable asset--speed. After the season opener, Roberts didn't try to steal a base in the next six games through Tuesday night.

"Pitchers are going right after me," Roberts said. "I've noticed I'm behind in a lot of counts because I'm trying to see pitches, but in certain hitters' counts, I'm taking pitches when I should be swinging. I've got to start turning the tables on them."

Part of a leadoff batter's job is to work counts, to be patient, to give his teammates a chance to see more pitches, but that strategy can backfire when pitchers throw strikes, putting the hitter in a hole.

"They know the book on me, that I like to bunt and I like to take pitches, so they're going right at me," Roberts said. "I've got to be more conscious of them throwing the ball over the middle of the plate and take advantage of it."

He did in the first inning Wednesday night. Roberts took a strike, and Giant pitcher Ryan Jensen came back with a fastball over the middle. Roberts lined it to center for a single. Roberts stole second, his first stolen base since the season opener, but was doubled up when he took off for third on Brian Jordan's fly to left. He had another single and stolen base and is hitting .250.

"The cure is to be more aggressive in the strike zone," Roberts said. "Obviously, the first pitch of the game, I'll be taking 99% of the time, but from that point on, I've got to hit fastballs."

With the Dodgers in the second day of a stretch in which they play 13 games without a day off, Manager Jim Tracy didn't start No. 3 hitter Paul Lo Duca, who entered the game late. Shawn Green, Jordan and Eric Karros each moved up a spot in the order, but Adrian Beltre, who entered with a .150 average, remained in the seventh spot while No. 8 batter Mark Grudzielanek moved to sixth. ... Tom Goodwin and Mike Trombley cleared waivers and are free agents.

*

TODAY

DODGERS'

ANDY ASHBY

(1-0, 0.00 ERA)

vs.

GIANTS'

KIRK RUETER

(0-0, 1.29 ERA)

Pacific Bell Park,

San Francisco, 12:30 p.m.

TV--Channel 13.

Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330).

Update--After sitting out most of the 2001 season because of an elbow injury that required surgery last June, Ashby threw seven shutout innings, giving up only one hit, in a 9-0 win over Colorado last Friday. Barry Bonds has a .373 average (19 for 51), seven homers and 11 RBIs against Ashby. Rueter, who gave up one run in seven innings for a no-decision in his first start, against San Diego on Friday, has given up three earned runs or less in 162 of his 226 major league starts.

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