Atlanta (1-1) at Los Angeles (1-1)

Fair Currently: Los Angeles, CA
Temp: 70° F
  • Game info: 10:10 pm EDT Wed Apr 5, 2006
Preview | Box Score | Recap

A big problem during a miserable 2005 for the Los Angeles Dodgers was the injury bug. It’s already surfaced again this season.

One day after losing newcomer Nomar Garciaparra to the disabled list, the Dodgers hope to avoid any new health problems Wednesday and win the finale of their three-game set with the Atlanta Braves.

Signed as a free agent during the offseason, Garciaparra was to switch from his usual shortstop position to become the Dodgers’ first baseman this year as he tried to rejuvenate his career.

Instead, Garciaparra found himself back on the 15-day DL on Tuesday due to a strained muscle in his right side.

Injuries limited him to 21 games in 2001, 81 in 2004 and 62 last season.

The 32-year-old Garciaparra said he wasn’t discouraged, but added: “Disappointed and frustrated, no question. There is never a good time. There’s a time when you can be a little more cautious. This is the time.”

Los Angeles already had started the season without All-Star shortstop Cesar Izturis as he recovers from elbow surgery, and starting center fielder Kenny Lofton, who went on the DL on Sunday with a strained calf.

“That’s what goes on—it’s life,” Lofton said. “That’s the way the game is. You can look at other teams as well having injuries. Bad luck or something. You can’t put a finger on it. If it’s going to happen, let it happen know.”

It happened throughout last season for the Dodgers, who were without Izturis, closer Eric Gagne and outfielder J.D. Drew—among others—for extended periods as they finished 71-91.

Another Los Angeles player who missed significant time last year was starter Odalis Perez, who will make his season debut Wednesday.

Soreness in his pitching shoulder and a strained muscle in his side limited the left-hander to 19 starts last season, finishing 7-8 with a 4.56 ERA. He hired a personal trainer during the offseason and says he went into spring about 14 pounds lighter.

“I’ve had too many injuries. I don’t want that anymore,” Perez said as training camp opened. “I want to be part of this new team, I want to be here for a long time.

Perez, who broke in with Atlanta in 1998, has yet to fulfill the promise he displayed during his first season with Los Angeles in 2002, when he was 15-10 with a 3.00 ERA.

He will be opposed by Horacio Ramirez, who had an inconsistent 2005 season as he finished 11-9 with a 4.63 ERA. The fourth-year left-hander was awful on the road, going 3-8 with a 5.69 ERA while opposing batters hit .310.

His only career start against the Dodgers came last season and he did not get a decision despite pitching seven strong innings.

Perez, meanwhile, lost both of his starts against the Braves last year, allowing nine runs and 16 hits in 10 innings.

Andruw Jones has homered twice in eight at-bats against Perez. He has a homer and five RBIs in the season’s first two games.

The big hit Tuesday, however, came from Drew as his two-run homer helped Los Angeles win 5-4, evening this series and giving Grady Little his first victory as Dodgers manager.

It was the first homer in more than nine months for Drew, who already has four hits through two games after opening last season hitless in 25 at-bats.

“I feel good, I’m healthy,” said Drew, whose 2005 season ended in July due to a broken wrist. “I had to fine-tune a few things in the spring. I came into the season right where I want to be.”

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Starting Pitchers

H. Ramirez ChC vs. O. Perez Was
5-5 Record 6-8
4.48 ERA 6.20
37 K 81
31 BB 31
1.52 WHIP 1.58