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Hiroki Kuroda gives strong effort

DODGERS 6, ARIZONA 3

Right-hander holds Diamondbacks scoreless over 32/3 innings and makes a case to be the opening-day starter.

March 11, 2009|Jim Peltz

PHOENIX — Xavier Paul might not make the Dodgers' opening-day roster, but the young outfielder could be playing in the big leagues before the season ends.

Paul, who hit .316 for triple-A Las Vegas last year, is making the most of his spring-training appearance with the big club. He has played in every game, is batting .406 and has a team-leading 13 hits.

"He's emerged this spring," Manager Joe Torre said. "Last year, he caught our attention somewhat, but he was a little on the raw side. We're taking a more serious look at him this year."

Paul did not have a plate appearance Tuesday in the Dodgers' 6-3 Cactus League win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Camelback Ranch. But on Monday, he had a single, double, triple and two runs batted in against the Texas Rangers.

Paul grew up in Slidell, La., just north of New Orleans, and was drafted by the Dodgers in 2003.

Why is he hitting so well?

"Going to Mexico to play winter ball helped me a lot," Paul said. "I had a really good hitting guy down there, Kevin Mitchell," who played with eight teams over 13 big league seasons, "and he worked with me a lot."

Torre said no decision has been made about Paul's future.

"Defensively, he's improving," Torre said. "He's very aggressive both in the outfield and at the plate. But I'm very pleased with what I saw."

Kuroda shines

Hiroki Kuroda, a favorite to start opening day April 6 at San Diego, had another strong outing in the Dodgers' win over Arizona.

Although he griped that he didn't have complete command of his pitches, Kuroda gave up only one hit and no runs in 3 2/3 innings and struck out six.

The Dodgers scored three earned runs against starter Brandon Webb, including a home run by Casey Blake. Center fielder Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer against Jon Rauch in the fifth inning.

Break time

The Dodgers have today off, and Kuroda, through his Japanese interpreter, said he would sleep in.

"If I were to rest my bones I would rather have three or four days, but it's only one day, so it's really hard to forget about spring training, but I'll try my best," he said.

Second baseman Orlando Hudson said he planned to "just relax and chill." Hudson, 31, who has been under the weather in recent days, said "I won't even leave my house."

Hudson spent the winter recovering from a wrist injury, and he said the day off helps "save my body [because] it's a long year. Let the body rest."

And Torre?

"I take a day off," he said. "There's really nothing to think about."

The Dodgers on Thursday will play an exhibition game at Camelback Ranch against South Korea's entrant in the World Baseball Classic.

Outfielder Manny Ramirez is scheduled to make his first spring-training start for the Dodgers in that game.

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james.peltz@latimes.com

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