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Eric Milton will be available for relief duty

DODGERS FYI

The left-hander's next scheduled start isn't until July 11 against the Brewers. He says his back is no longer a problem.

June 30, 2009|Jim Peltz

Eric Milton for now remains the fifth starter in the Dodgers' rotation despite being knocked around in his outing Saturday, Manager Joe Torre said Monday.

"We just called in Eric and told him his next start is in Milwaukee on the 11th of July," Torre said before Monday's game with the Colorado Rockies. "I said to him like I'll say to you, between now and then things can change."

But in the meantime, Torre added, Milton would be available for relief.

Three days ago, in his first start after missing three weeks because of a strained lower back, Milton gave up seven hits and four runs in five innings in a 5-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

That dropped the left-hander to 2-1 with a 3.80 earned-run average.

The Dodgers don't need a fifth starter until July 11 because they have off days Thursday and next Monday before playing three games against the New York Mets and three against Milwaukee.

Milton said his back is no longer a problem and that he "made a few mistakes up in the strike zone" against Seattle. "I've just got to focus more on down" with his pitches, he said.

And while saying he "always looks forward" to another start, the Pennsylvania native said he was "trying to help out any way I can" by being available in the bullpen.

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Rockies rebound

The season wasn't two months old when it appeared the division-leading Dodgers were beyond the reach of the Rockies.

But on May 29, Colorado fired manager Clint Hurdle, replaced him with former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy and set in motion the team's startling rebound.

Going into the series opener against the Dodgers, Colorado had won 20 of its last 23 games and was 22-7 overall since Tracy took the helm.

"You can see they've got a different energy level," Torre said of the Rockies.

Regardless of how the teams fare in the current series, "I don't know if it's going to change their minds about how good they think they are," Torre said.

And Tracy said, "They're good, they know they're good. We've got pros in that clubhouse to go along with some very talented youthful players."

They also have the Dodgers in their sights again.

Although the Dodgers held a 7 1/2 -game lead over the Rockies in the National League West before Monday's game, "a month ago we were 14 1/2 games behind," Tracy noted.

Asked about Colorado's surge, Tracy -- who managed the Dodgers from 2001 through 2005 -- said the team was more aggressive and confident, led by right fielder Brad Hawpe (hitting .329 with 55 runs batted in entering Monday's game) and first baseman Todd Helton (.318).

"We're very, very aggressive," he said. "It starts at home plate. I really feel like the first 46 games of the season we were very passive. We were striking out way too many times each and every night."

Now, "we're very disappointed if we get beat," Tracy said. "We expect to win. If we don't, we'll show up tomorrow expecting to win again."

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Driving force

New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Sunday reached 500 saves, many of which came while pitching for Torre, and had his first career run batted in.

"I didn't see a big smile on his face when he had a save, but only with the RBI," Torre joked. "That's the biggest smile I've seen on his face."

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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DODGERS TONIGHT

VS. COLORADO

When: 7.

Where: Dodger Stadium.

On the air: TV: Channel 9; Radio: 790, 930.

Pitchers: Chad Billingsley vs. Jason Marquis.

Update: The 24-year-old Billingsley aims for his 10th win of the season after having no decision in his prior outing Thursday in the Dodgers' 6-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox in 13 innings. Billingsley could not hold a 4-0 lead in that game. He is 2-2 lifetime against Colorado. Marquis, meanwhile, is 4-1 lifetime against the Dodgers with a 2.19 earned-run average against the club.

-- Jim Peltz

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