SAN FRANCISCO — The Dodgers could field something resembling a spring training lineup today, on a day in which victory could bring the National League West championship and home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Eric Stults will make his second major league start today with the Dodgers scratching Derek Lowe so they can use him twice in the division series. Lowe will start Game 1, with Greg Maddux expected to start Game 2. Manager Grady Little said Saturday he would include rookie Hong-Chih Kuo in the playoff rotation and said previously that Brad Penny would be included as well, if sound.
Penny, hampered by a back injury in his past two starts, pitched in the bullpen Saturday and said he felt good.
Infielders Nomar Garciaparra and Jeff Kent, trying to play through muscle strains, are not expected to play today. Catcher Russell Martin, shortstop Rafael Furcal and outfielders J.D. Drew and Kenny Lofton could get the day off as well.
"I just want to get as much health as we can and line our pitching up," General Manager Ned Colletti said.
Said Little: "I'm going to drink a couple bottles of champagne and then make the lineup."
If the Dodgers win and the San Diego Padres lose today, then the Dodgers win the NL West and open the playoffs at home, probably against the St. Louis Cardinals. If not, the Dodgers open at New York, against the Mets.
Kent, asked how important he considered winning the division today: "It means more playoff money. That's the only thing I know."
Even the most diehard Dodgers fans might struggle with this trivia question: In the game the Dodgers clinched their previous last playoff berth, the one that ended on Steve Finley's walkoff grand slam, who was their starting pitcher?
The answer: Elmer Dessens, who worked the first four innings on a day the Dodgers had run out of starters. Dessens appeared in 12 games for the Dodgers that season, all but that one in relief.
"It's a great memory," said Dessens, a 10-year veteran. "When Finley hit the big home run, it was very emotional. It's the only time I've ever been to the postseason."
That was only two years ago, and yet the only players on the Dodgers' active roster now and on their playoff roster then are Dessens, reliever Giovanni Carrara and infielder Olmedo Saenz -- and Dessens and Carrara left the organization in between.
Colletti said he would meet with Little today to set the playoff roster. Dessens and Carrara are unlikely to be included, which would leave Saenz as the only man on the 2004 and 2006 playoff rosters.