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DeWitt appears in the leadoff spot

DODGERS FYI

He's replacing Furcal at shortstop for today's game against the Padres.

April 10, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

SAN DIEGO — James McDonald said he found himself slightly unsettled on the eve of his first major league start.

"I just saw him on ESPN," McDonald said of Nick Adenhart, the Angels' rookie pitcher who died in a car accident early Thursday morning.

McDonald said he saw Adenhart here and there as they climbed the minor league ranks together.

"Every time he got on the mound when we played him in the playoffs, you knew he was coming at you," McDonald said.

Watching highlights of Adenhart's six shutout innings made McDonald queasy.

"He's on top of the world and the next thing you know, his life is tragically ended," he said. "It can happen to anybody."

But McDonald, the Dodgers' two-time minor league pitcher of the year, said he was otherwise composed.

"I'm excited, not nervous," he said.

He said his parents were traveling from their home in Long Beach to Arizona to watch him pitch.

McDonald had an unusual spring, as Manager Joe Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had initially planned to use him as a reliever. But when veteran fifth-starter candidates Jason Schmidt, Eric Milton and Shawn Estes were felled by either their health or decreased velocity, McDonald was added to the competition.

Posting a 5.32 earned-run average in the exhibition season, he essentially won the job by default.

"I felt confident toward the end," he said.

"My location was better. I'm getting a feel for my off-speed pitches. I'm starting to get more consistent."

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Kershaw's debut a mixed bag

Clayton Kershaw had the kind of start Thursday that was not only a reminder of the immense potential but also of the reality that he's only 21 years old.

Facing the San Diego Padres in his season debut, Kershaw gave up only a run and two hits.

One problem: He lasted only five innings because he ran his pitch count to 105.

"It was a day I had to battle," Kershaw said.

Kershaw threw 50 pitches and walked three batters in the first two innings.

"The first couple of innings I didn't throw enough strikes to get out of the innings quick enough," he said. "That was my fault."

He credited the Padres for what followed.

"They put together some good at-bats," he said.

Particularly David Eckstein, whose 13-pitch at-bat in the third inning culminated with a double to left field.

Kershaw had six strikeouts, including two against Adrian Gonzalez.

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Something new for DeWitt

Wanting to disrupt the Dodgers' lineup as little as possible, Manager Joe Torre penciled Blake DeWitt into the leadoff spot. DeWitt started shortstop in place of Rafael Furcal, the Dodgers' regular leadoff hitter, who took the first of his weekly off days.

DeWitt, who guessed the last time he led off was some time in Class-A ball, was 0 for 4 with a walk.

DeWitt also faced a challenge on defense, as he played a position he last played in high school. He made a sliding backhanded stop in the third inning on a grounder hit by Brian Giles and bounced the ball to first base to throw him out.

"I didn't get too many backhand plays in the spring," DeWitt said. "It was good to get one. It's one of those plays that give you confidence."

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Short hops

Orlando Hudson will be facing his former teammates for the first time when the Dodgers visit Arizona today. . . . Delwyn Young, who is on the disabled list because of elbow problems, will start a minor league rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Albuquerque today. He'll be the designated hitter in the first game.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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