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Notes: Little excited for Opening Day

Notes: Little excited for Opening Day

ANAHEIM -- Grady Little doesn't need much to get him started on the subject of Opening Day.

So he was quick to respond to a question about his expectations for Monday afternoon, when the Dodgers take on Atlanta at Dodger Stadium to begin the 2006 season.

"Anyone in a Major League Baseball uniform, standing on the sideline on Opening Day, if they don't have butterflies, I don't think they're even human ... all the way down to the batboy," Little said.

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Standing alongside Little on the third-base line will be a lineup radically redesigned thanks to the offseason energy of new general manager Ned Colletti, who came aboard in November and soon imported a cadre of veterans expected to help steady the roster while the farm system ripens. At least that's the hope.

Part of that veteran core, center fielder Kenny Lofton, will miss the first couple of weeks. Lofton was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained calf muscle.

Jason Repko will open the season in Lofton's spot.

"Kenny worked out yesterday and took batting practice and it still bothered him," Little said. "We made the decision because his legs are his game. If he's sore in that area it's not good for him and not good for this ballclub."

Little added that resting Lofton now made more sense than risking the possibility of increased wear later in the season.

Cutting it close: Little said he faced "one of the toughest decisions in Spring Training" when deciding between infielders Ramon Martinez and Oscar Robles before going with the former as the final piece of the Opening Day 25-man roster.

Both Robles and catcher Russell Martin were optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas after Game 2 of the Freeway Series on Saturday night.

"All these players understand that to get done what we want to do this year will take 30-35 players," the manager said. "Both these guys [Martinez and Robles] can really play.

"It boiled down to the fact that we'll begin the season with 12 pitchers," Little said. "We'll be flexible with that as we go. When we get done with cold weather and our starters are stretched out, we'll go with 11."

Counting on Lowe: Little noted that all five of his starters during Spring Training reached the point where their pitch counts could total 85-90. And in the case of Opening Day starter Derek Lowe, Little said, "We're going to get as much as we can from him. If he can get 110 pitches we'll go with that. It depends on the intensity of those pitches."

Repko's ready: For his part, Repko will savor the chance to make the first Opening Day start of his young career -- with all due respect to the incumbent in center, of course.

"I'm obviously very excited about it," Repko said. "At the same time it's kind of a bummer for Kenny, going down.

"He'll get healthy and meanwhile I'll try to do the best I can. I never assumed I'd be a starter. I just want to come in and help where they need me."

One for the scrapbooks: Among the Dodgers in uniform on Monday will be four players making their first appearance on an Opening Day roster: pitchers Tim Hamulack, Hong-Chih Kuo and Franquelis Osoria and outfielder Cody Ross.

Breaking the tiemark: For the record, and certainly not much more than that, the Dodgers broke a club record on Saturday night with their fifth tie of the preseason.

Their previous Spring Training high was four games, set in 2002. In all other preseasons combined since 1958, the team had just 12 ties.

Ted Brock is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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