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Brown Has the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

May 20, 2003|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

Some of the most revealing baseball conversations occur at home plate, and catcher Paul Lo Duca is a good listener.

Lately, he's hearing a lot about pitcher Kevin Brown, scheduled to start tonight against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

"Guys are talking about how well Brownie's throwing again," Lo Duca said. "They're going up there shaking their heads and saying how good his stuff is, and you can really see how tough he is now.

"We knew we were going to have a good staff even if he wasn't all the way back. But having Brownie going like this again gives us the best staff in the game."

The Dodgers have the major leagues' lowest earned-run average at 2.84, and Brown is leading the way again.

With three victories in his last four starts, Brown has improved to 4-1 while lowering his ERA to 2.51, sixth in the National League.

He has been especially effective since recovering from flu-like symptoms and upper-respiratory problems -- only six earned runs in his last 35 innings (a 1.54 ERA) with 31 strikeouts.

On the disabled list six times in the previous three seasons and coming off surgery last June for a herniated disk in his lower back, Brown is finally feeling good and making things difficult on opponents.

"The way this man in throwing, this was what we saw before he experienced all the problems" with his back and pitching elbow, Manager Jim Tracy said. "We're witnessing an individual who has the freedom to do the things he's capable of doing because his body is finally cooperating."

Brown hasn't completed a full season since 2000, so he's not looking too far ahead.

"I definitely feel closer to what feels right," he said. "After everything that's gone on the last two years with the injuries, that's the main thing right now, but there's always room for improvement."

Pitching coach Jim Colborn is more than satisfied.

"Every fifth day," he said, "I'm lucky to have him."


Closer Eric Gagne rebounded quickly after giving up three hits and four earned runs in one-third of an inning May 12 in an 11-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium.

He earned three saves as the Dodgers swept the Florida Marlins, pitching three perfect innings with six strikeouts. The second-year closer has converted 15 consecutive save opportunities this season and 23 in a row spanning two seasons.

"It's not like I doubted myself, but you're anxious to go back on the mound as quick as possible," said Gagne, who lowered his ERA from 2.37 to 2.05. "You want to get the bad memory out of your mind, even though I don't think I made that many mistakes [against Atlanta]."


Tracy had been reluctant to let Brian Jordan play center field occasionally because he underwent off-season surgery on his left knee, and that position is considered more taxing than left.

However, Dave Roberts' strained right hamstring prompted a change of plans. Jordan, whose knee is still recovering, is the everyday center fielder until Roberts returns from the disabled list.

It's not the best situation, but Jordan is an optimist. "They [team medical personnel] tell me my knee is going to be good in the winter, but that doesn't help me now," he said. "The main thing is I'm going to play center like I played left: hard. Regardless of the knee, I'm going to keep working hard and playing hard."


Opponent -- Colorado Rockies, three games.

Site -- Dodger Stadium.

Tonight -- 7.

TV -- Fox Sports Net 2 every game.

Radio -- KFWB (980), KWKW (1330).

Records -- Dodgers 24-20, Rockies 21-23.

2002 record vs. Rockies -- 12-7.

Tonight, 7 -- Kevin Brown (4-1, 2.51 ERA) vs. Darren Oliver (1-2, 5.65).

Wednesday, 7 p.m. -- Kazuhisa Ishii (3-1, 2.76) vs. Jason Jennings (3-3, 5.55).

Thursday, noon -- Darren Dreifort (3-3, 3.51) vs. Aaron Cook (1-3, 5.63).

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