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DODGERS FYI

Joe Torre takes cues from John Wooden

The Dodgers manager is well-versed in the UCLA legend's theories on what a coach can control.

April 04, 2009|Jim Peltz

Joe Torre might have one of the best managerial records in big league baseball, but when it comes to starting a new season, the Dodgers' manager looks for guidance from legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

Torre naturally hopes the Dodgers get off to a fast start, beginning with the team's opener Monday in San Diego against the Padres.

But even if the club struggles out of the box, what's important is whether the Dodgers are playing well regardless, Torre said Friday.

"That's really what you look for," Torre said. "I learned about the win-and-lose stuff from John Wooden -- reading his books -- that you don't always control that part."

The Dodgers certainly weren't in control Friday night as they dropped an exhibition game to the Milwaukee Brewers, 7-2, in front of 24,899 at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley pitched four shutout innings -- and 70% of his pitches were strikes -- until running into trouble in the fifth when he surrendered a two-run homer to Brewers catcher Jason Kendall.

Milwaukee scored four more in the sixth inning, thanks mostly to Mike Cameron's double, with the bases loaded, off reliever Tanyon Sturtze.

Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo, in turn, shut down the Dodgers, giving up only two hits and no runs in his five innings of work.

The Dodgers finally got on the scoreboard in the seventh inning when catcher Russell Martin hit a two-run home run into the left-field pavilion after Xavier Paul had singled.

Torre said Wooden's teachings reminded him that "you can't control all aspects of the opponent's game. You can pitch really well, but it doesn't mean that they're not going to hit a bloop single that happens to beat you. . . .

"You'd like to be able to control winning and losing," Torre said, "but the only thing you know you can control is the energy with which you play and the urgency with which you approach [the game]."

Home sweet home

Growing up in the San Fernando Valley, Ryan Braun was an avid Dodgers fan who attended several games a year.

Now Braun is a power-hitting outfielder for the Brewers, so playing at Dodger Stadium carries extra meaning for the former Granada Hills High standout.

"This is one of the few places where I have the opportunity to kind of reflect on where I'm at, what I've accomplished and that kind of puts it in perspective," said Braun, 25, who slugged 37 home runs and had 106 runs batted in last year.

"I just bought a house in Malibu," Braun said before collecting three hits Friday night. "I'll probably never leave L.A., I love it out here. Friends, family, everybody's still here."

Including his mother, Diane, who works at a brewery in Van Nuys, which frequently invites the quip that both Braun and his mother are "professional brewers."

Braun, nursing a sore right thumb, said he isn't aiming for any individual statistical goals this season except for one.

"I'd love to play in all 162 games," he said. "I feel that if I can do that, everything else will take care of itself."

And finally

James McDonald, the favorite to be the fifth pitcher in the Dodgers' rotation, is the scheduled starter Sunday against the Giants. . . . The need to make final roster cuts before Monday prompted Torre to recall one of his days managing the Atlanta Braves in the early 1980s. "When I tried to get an advance from [then owner] Ted Turner to buy a place [to live]," Torre said, "he told me to rent."

--

james.peltz@latimes.com

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