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Dodgers' bullpen is taxed by bad Penny

Starter gives up 10 runs and can't get out of the fifth inning as Mets avoid a sweep, 12-1.

May 08, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers might have won 10 of their last 12 games, but Manager Joe Torre is welcoming the open date on the calendar today.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal, who sat out the last two games, said the day off would give his tightened lower back the necessary time to heal for the series opener against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Furcal isn't the only one who needs rest.

The Dodgers' heavily taxed bullpen logged another 4 1/3 innings Wednesday in a 12-1 loss to the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium, as Brad Penny gave up a career-high 10 runs and was forced to exit early. Penny gave up five two-out runs in the fifth inning and was replaced by Scott Proctor.

"Proctor, he had no business being in the game in the fifth inning," Penny said.

Penny's premature exit marked the fifth time in the Dodgers' last six games that the starter failed to pitch more than five innings. The exception was Chad Billingsley, who pitched six in the series-opening win over the Mets on Monday.

Entering the game Wednesday, the Dodgers' starters had averaged 5 1/3 innings a start, second-worst in the majors.

"That's going to catch up with you," Torre said.

Referring to how Billingsley managed to start the seventh inning in his last start, Torre said, "Unless we continue to get that, we're going to ask a lot of our bullpen and they're capable, but if you continue going to the well, then you're going to wind up wearing down a little bit."

Proctor, who made his 16th appearance, gave up two runs in 1 1/3 innings. He entered the game with two outs and the bases loaded and promptly walked Luis Castillo to increase the Dodgers' deficit to 8-0. David Wright's ground-rule double made it 10-0, Castillo scored on a wild pitch to put the Mets up 11-0 and Proctor served up a home run to Ryan Church in the sixth that inflated his earned-run average to 5.94.

Proctor is second on the team in games pitched behind Joe Beimel, who has 18.

But the Dodgers' long relievers have looked promising.

Chan Ho Park blanked the Mets over the final three innings to lower his ERA to 2.45. The previous day, left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo earned a victory by striking out a career-high eight batters over 3 2/3 shutout innings.

A converted starter who said in previous seasons that he felt uncomfortable pitching in relief, Kuo said he is getting used to coming out of the bullpen.

Kuo said the most difficult part of moving the bullpen was learning when and how to warm up. He said he picked up tips from Proctor and Beimel.

"When the situation comes, I know I have to be ready," Kuo said.

The left-hander said he's watching games more closely to try to anticipate when he might be called upon. That was the case Tuesday night, a game he entered one out into the fourth inning. Kuo said he began stretching when starter Hiroki Kuroda got into trouble.

Meanwhile, the lineup is counting on the return of Furcal, who is leads the team with a .366 average.

Without Furcal atop the order, the Dodgers were shut out by Mets starter John Maine over the first eight innings.

Maine made 117 pitches in 8 1/3 innings. Penny made 112 in 4 2/3 .

The Dodgers were held to four hits, two of which came in the ninth.

"You look at Raffy kind of like a captain," first baseman James Loney said.

"He brings a lot to the game. He's made some ridiculous plays this year on offense, defense and running the basepaths."

Hitting coach Mike Easler said of Furcal: "To me, he's definitely an MVP candidate."

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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