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Torre would like to slow down Arizona

DODGERS REPORT

April 23, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

CINCINNATI -- Manager Joe Torre wouldn't go so far as to say that the Dodgers had to win their next two games, but he came close.

"We must compete, let's put it that way," Torre said.

The Arizona Diamondbacks will be at Dodger Stadium tonight. The Dodgers trail the National League West leaders by seven games, a lead the Diamondbacks helped build by sweeping them in three games in Arizona on April 7-9.

"They pretty much manhandled us," Torre said. "They're very aggressive. They're very confident right now. That's what happens with young kids. When they're rolling, they don't look back."

Like the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks are built around a group of young players -- only the Diamondbacks' are putting up big numbers.

Through Monday, 24-year-old Mark Reynolds was tied for fourth in the majors with six home runs, and 24-year-old Chris Young and 20-year-old Justin Upton had five. Conor Jackson had 17 runs batted in, two fewer than Reynolds. The Diamondbacks start another 24-year-old in shortstop Stephen Drew.

Young, who hit 32 home runs last season in his first full season in the majors, recently signed a contract extension that will guarantee him $28 million from 2009 to 2013.

"If we go out to eat, it should be on him," said Dodgers first baseman James Loney, who played with Young on a youth travel ball team in Texas and worked out with him last winter.

The similarity in age of the personnel for the Dodgers and Diamondbacks has created a growing rivalry, with the young players from both sides remembering facing one another in the minors.

"We all came up together," Dodgers right fielder Matt Kemp said.

Said Diamondbacks starting pitcher Micah Owings, 25: "Even coming through the system, I remember facing plenty of those guys that are with the club now. I do see some good battles, not just this year in the next two days, but in the future."

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Andruw Jones, who hit his first home run on Saturday but was 0 for 8 with four strikeouts over the next two games, was held out of the lineup. Jones said he was slowed in recent days by allergies, something he said he usually gets around this time of the year. Torre said Jones had the flu.

"All your joints feel sore, like you've been hit by a car or something," Jones said.

Jones spent the last few days working with special assignment coach Don Mattingly, who was with the team on its five-game trip. Torre said Jones' problems are obvious: He's trying to pull everything for a home run.

Torre said Jones might have been hurt in the long haul by his 51-homer season in 2005.

"It gets you in some bad habits," Torre said of Jones, who is hitting .159 and has struck out 22 times in 63 at-bats. "He hit 20-something home runs last year, but who knows how many he would've hit with a different approach."

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Andy LaRoche is set to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment that will probably last 20 days, which is the limit for position players, Torre said. LaRoche will report to double-A Jacksonville (Fla.) and be the designated hitter in its game today at Montgomery, Ala. . . . Yhency Brazoban struck out two in a scoreless inning for Jacksonville. Brazoban, who is in the minors to build arm strength, hasn't given up a run in 8 2/3 innings this season and has 11 strikeouts. Torre said Brazoban has lost anywhere from seven to 10 pounds and would be the first reliever called up when the Dodgers resume carrying 12 pitchers. . . . The Dodgers will hold a news conference Thursday to announce the next round of renovations at Dodger Stadium.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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