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DODGERS REPORT

Kemp, not Bigbie, is right man for job

April 03, 2007|Steve Henson | Times Staff Writer

MILWAUKEE — Larry Bigbie couldn't find another job, so the Dodgers handed the one they had left open for him to Matt Kemp.

Kemp was kept primarily because he is a right-handed hitter and the Dodgers face a string of left-handers over the next eight days. He will start tonight ahead of Andre Ethier in right field against Chris Capuano and could provide quality at-bats against Barry Zito and Noah Lowry of the San Francisco Giants over the weekend and Jeff Francis of the Colorado Rockies early next week.

General Manager Ned Colletti confirmed that had Bigbie's agent found another team that would have put him on its major league roster, the left-handed-hitting outfielder would be with the Dodgers instead of apartment-hunting in Las Vegas before the triple-A season begins Thursday.

Bigbie, a seven-year veteran who batted .357 in spring training, is insurance in case of an injury to left fielder Luis Gonzalez. A career corner outfielder, he will play some center field in Las Vegas to increase his versatility.

Meanwhile, Manager Grady Little will use Kemp in matchups that make sense. Last season against Capuano, Kemp was two for three and Ethier was 0 for 3.

"I'll take it day to day," Little said. "It won't be a strict platoon."

There is no need to platoon with Ethier, who batted .358 in 77 at-bats against left-handers as a rookie last season and batted .308 overall. Not that people are letting Ethier in on their thinking.

"Nobody has talked to me about anything," he said. "I have no idea what the plan is."

Much could depend on Kemp, who started slowly during the spring but was the team's hottest hitter the last two weeks. He also is one of the Dodgers' few power hitters, leading the team with four spring home runs.

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Feeling as bad as Bigbie was first baseman James Loney, who vented his frustration at Little and Colletti when they informed him he would be going back to Las Vegas despite batting .414 during the spring.

By Monday he'd cooled off, according to Logan White, assistant general manager for scouting.

"He and [outfielder] Delwyn Young were driving to Vegas and going to get a place to stay," White said. "James' point was that he knows he is a big-league player, and we wouldn't want him to feel any other way."

Kemp knows that his good fortune came at the expense of his good friend Loney.

"That's my boy, he's proven himself too," Kemp said. "He's happy for me. Sometime this year he'll be here too."

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Shortstop Rafael Furcal said his sprained ankle became swollen during the flight to Milwaukee, and the grimace on his face while playing catch with trainer Stan Conte spoke louder than words. Furcal is eligible to come off the disabled list Saturday, but Little said "a target date has not been set." Ramon Martinez again will start at shortstop tonight. ... Left-handed pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo will join the team in L.A. on Monday and begin a throwing program. He hasn't picked up a baseball since complaining of shoulder soreness with two weeks left in spring training. ... Reliever Yhency Brazoban is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from elbow ligament replacement surgery and could pitch in a minor league game in two weeks or less.

steve.henson@latimes.com

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