Ortiz's Start Tonight May be Pivotal

It seems only fitting that Ramon Ortiz's first start in nearly three seasons would take place against the Padres. Ortiz has been game enough in his swingman role for the Dodgers to get the call Friday, becoming just the latest in a number of pitchers who have been pushed into the rotation for the Dodgers this season.

While the series with San Diego that starts tonight comes much to early in the season to be labeled "crucial," is it, nonetheless important in that a win now counts as much as a win in September.

Having said that, who would have thought that the Dodgers, traditionally a pitching rich organization, would be relying on a 36-year-old pitcher who pitched in Japan in 2008 and who pitched the entire season last year in the minors, would be the one that would open the series?

The last time Ortiz pitched in a major league game before making the Dodgers' roster out of spring training came in October 2007. As a member of the Rockies bullpen, Ortiz picked up the victory in a one-game playoff. The losing team that day was the Padres.

The fact that he will start Friday at San Diego has some symmetry about it. He didn't just return to the major leagues this season, he has proven himself enough to warrant a start. In between, Ortiz passed his time in Class AAA as well as pitching in Japan.

The last time he started a major league game was on May 26, 2007, while pitching for the Twins against the Blue Jays. Ortiz gave up six runs on 10 hits in six innings. It was the fourth consecutive start in which he gave up at least six runs.

NOTES, QUOTES
--SS Rafael Furcal might just benefit offensively from his time on the disabled list. Furcal, who returns Friday after missing 15 games with a strained left groin, saw his batting average plummet in the days leading up to his injury. After batting .356 on April 21, Furcal went 4-for-22 to see his average drop to its current .309 mark.

--3B Casey Blake is one of the few Dodgers who hasn't seen increased offensive production in the wake of LF Manny Ramirez's return to the lineup. Since Ramirez came back May 7 from a strained calf, Blake has gone 4-for-19 (.210). Take out the May 7 game, and Blake is 2-for-15 (.133) over his last five contests.

--RHP John Ely has earned the right to remain in the Dodgers' rotation, according to manager Joe Torre, following his first big-league victory Tuesday, when he gave up two runs over six innings at Arizona. Ely has pitched at least six innings in each of his first three big-league starts. He has not walked a batter over his last 16 innings, an impressive feat considering he has just 18 2/3 big-league innings to his credit.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton continues to sit and wait for pitching opportunities. The closer has just 12 outings this season and 11 2/3 innings. By contrast, reliever Ramon Troncoso already has pitched 17 2/3 innings this season. Broxton has pitched in just five save opportunities this season, blowing two of them.

--OF Reed Johnson might not start against RHP Jon Garland on Friday, but he will probably be the first pinch hitter off the bench if the Padres starter is still in the game. Johnson is batting .700 (7-for-10) against Garland in his career. LF Manny Ramirez also hits Garland well, going 14-for-27 (.519) in his career.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Career walk-off hits for RF Andre Ethier after his grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning on May 6 gave the Dodgers a 7-3 victory over the Brewers. Six of Ethier's walk-off hits have been home runs, five of those coming in the last two seasons. He has eight walk-off hits since the start of 2009.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I don't know what it is. For some (darn) reason I just keep getting up in that situation where I get an opportunity to do it. I can't figure it out. You might have to look up who else has had as many opportunities to win a game like that." -- RF Andre Ethier, after his grand slam on May 6 to beat the Brewers gave him his eighth walk-off hit in the past two seasons.

*M*A*S*H* 4077 MEDICAL WATCH:
--SS Rafael Furcal (left hamstring strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 28. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on May 11, and he is expected to be activated May 14. --RHP Charlie Haeger (sore right heel) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 9.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right forearm nerve irritation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 23. He isn't expected to return before mid-June.

--RHP Cory Wade (right shoulder surgery in March 2010) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 26, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 4. He is expected to be out until at least late June.

--C Brad Ausmus (bulging disk in back) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 9, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 28. He had surgery April 15, and he is expected to be out until at least mid-July.

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