Dodger Manager Jim Tracy has knocked on so much wood his knuckles are raw. He has held his breath so long, he's getting light-headed. Kevin Brown has gone to the mound seven times this spring, and each time Tracy crosses his fingers, hoping Brown walks away unscathed.
Perhaps Friday night will finally put Tracy's mind at ease. Brown, hampered by major back and elbow injuries in 2002, gave up one run and six hits and struck out eight in 5 1/3 innings, leading the Dodgers to a 5-3 exhibition victory over the Angels before 30,501 in Dodger Stadium.
In his final tuneup before the Dodgers' season opener in Arizona on Monday, Brown showed he has not only recovered from his injuries, he looks like the Brown of old, one of baseball's most dominant right-handers.
Brown threw 96 pitches, 64 for strikes, and hit 92 mph with his fastball in the sixth inning. The Angels barely touched Brown's split-fingered fastball, and his breaking ball was sharp.
It has been this way all spring for Brown, who has a 1.03 earned-run average with three walks and 34 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings. And that can only bode well for the Dodgers' playoff hopes.
"There are still things to work on, to improve on, but it's hard to complain considering where I was last year," Brown said. "It's a lot easier to feel good about where you're at when you've had a good spring. The key is to carry it over to the season."
Angel right-hander Ramon Ortiz, who had given up two earned runs in 20 previous spring innings, was tagged for five runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings. Adrian Beltre and Alex Cora had RBI singles in the second, and Shawn Green had an RBI double in the fifth.
Utility player Terry Shumpert, considered a strong candidate for a bench job, was released following Friday night's game, and pitcher Wilson Alvarez was assigned to triple-A Las Vegas.
Alvarez, the veteran left-hander trying to rebound from three injury marred seasons, told the Dodgers he'd decide within two or three days whether he would accept the assignment, "but right now I'd have to say no," Alvarez said. "I think I prefer to be with my kids instead of down there."
Shumpert's release greatly improves the chances for third baseman/first baseman Ron Coomer and utility player Jason Romano to make the team, but it might not impact struggling second baseman Joe Thurston, who appears headed for triple-A.
The Dodgers made five roster moves earlier Friday, assigning first baseman/outfielder Larry Barnes, outfielder Calvin Murray and pitcher Bryan Corey to the minor leagues, infielder Gookie Dawkins to triple-A Las Vegas and releasing infielder Quilvio Veras.
The team now has 12 pitchers, which means left-handers Tom Martin and Steve Colyer will likely start the season in the big leagues. When Guillermo Mota is activated after a four-game suspension, Colyer will likely go to triple-A.
Dodger first baseman Fred McGriff was scratched from the lineup because of tightness in his hamstring, but is expected to play tonight.
Troy Glaus rejoined the Angels and hit soft toss in the batting cage, but it appears increasingly unlikely that the third baseman will play in Sunday's season opener because of continuing concerns about tendinitis in his right wrist.
Glaus, expected to take batting practice today, hasn't played since last Sunday.
"It doesn't look like it's anything he needs to go on the [disabled list] with," Manager Mike Scioscia said, "it's just going to be a matter of when he can get it down to where it's tolerable."
Glaus batted .214 in 42 spring at-bats.
Angel reliever Dusty Bergman will receive the Fred Haney Award, given to the top rookie performer at spring training. A scoreless inning Friday lowered his spring ERA to 2.08 in 8 2/3 innings. He will start the season at triple-A Salt Lake.
The Freeway series concludes tonight with Kevin Appier facing Kazuhisa Ishii at Edison Field.