Notes: Tomko set for start

Notes: Tomko set for start

LOS ANGELES -- With his Dodgers on a five-game losing streak, manager Grady Little held a team meeting at the conclusion of batting practice Thursday.

The Dodgers have lost seven of their last eight and 10 of their last 14. They have gone from having a one-game lead in the National League West after Saturday's games to second place, two games out, at the start of play Thursday night. Their largest deficit this year was 4 1/2 games on May 8.

In addition to the team meeting, Little had Derek Lowe start Thursday night's game in place of scheduled starter Brett Tomko, who was scratched after fouling a batting practice pitch off his left foot Wednesday.

Tomko said he expects to be able to start Friday night against the Pirates.

"It's not too bad. I think I could have gone out there [Thursday]," said Tomko. "It's sore, but I should be good tomorrow. If it's up to me, I'll pitch."

Tomko, in the midst of a prolonged slump that has seen his ERA soar from 2.88 to 5.45 in the last five weeks, said he's got "a nice little bruise." He played catch before Thursday night's game and said it was still sore. If Tomko is unable to pitch, Odalis Perez figures to get the start.

"If I was a better hitter, this wouldn't have happened," he said.

Little said he made the decision to move up Lowe on Wednesday night after watching Tomko limping around the dugout during the Dodgers' 8-5 loss to Seattle.

"I made the decision mostly for the other guy," he said, referring to Lowe. "I wanted to make sure he knew he was in there, that there was no question in my mind or the trainer's mind or Derek Lowe's mind. I didn't want it to be a late call. I also knew Tomko would feel better tomorrow than he does today."

Injury update: The news is not good on either Eric Gagne or Bill Mueller.

Gagne has shown negligible improvement from the ulnar nerve injury he suffered June 6, while Mueller's future is increasingly uncertain because his recovery from a third operation on his right knee is being undermined by irreversible arthritic change in the joint.

Both continue their rehabilitation programs with no timetable for a return.

Izturis debuts at third: After a two-day cram course, Gold Glove shortstop Cesar Izturis was in the starting lineup at third base for the first time in his career, batting seventh. Izturis, making his first start since undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction, said he huddled with teammate Nomar Garciaparra, who moved from shortstop to third base on one-day's notice last year with the Cubs when Aramis Ramirez was injured.

"He reminded me that I have more time at third base because the ball gets there faster and to use that time and not rush," Izturis said. "Just catch the ball and don't rush the throw. And that the angle is different. I think a couple of games and I'll be fine."

Izturis said his biggest concern is the barehand grab and off-balance throw necessary on slow rollers and bunts.

"Playing next to Adrian Beltre, I saw him make that play so many times and he's the best," said Izturis of his former teammate and current Mariner. "The last two nights, I was really watching him on every play. He's a great defensive player there."

Little on Furcal: The manager has an interesting take on struggling shortstop Rafael Furcal. Little said Furcal (batting .248) was more effective earlier this year when he was injured.

"He got into a hole when he was hurt and now that he's healthy he's trying to dig his way out too quickly," said Little. "It doesn't work. He is frustrated. He told me that two nights ago he stayed up and watched video of last year. That's a player searching to be better and that's all we can ask. Maybe he's putting pressure on himself to make it happen too quickly.

"Early on, when he was hurting, he was taking pitches and walking. He's an on-base-percentage guy and he gets on base and scores runs. Right now, he's feeling better physically and he's too anxious. We haven't seen Rafael Furcal here in L.A. yet."

Trainer honored: Stan Johnston has been selected by Major League Baseball as a trainer for the National League team in the 77th All-Star Game, to be played July 11 at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

Johnston is in his seventh season as the club's head athletic trainer after spending four years as the Dodgers' assistant athletic trainer from 1996-99. Prior to his stint in Los Angeles, Johnston was the head athletic trainer at Triple-A Albuquerque from 1989-95. He joined the Dodgers organization in 1985 as a trainer with the Dodgers' Rookie League affiliate in Great Falls, Mont. Johnston, 46, became an athletic trainer to treat his own injuries after sustaining numerous broken bones as a performer on the professional rodeo circuit.

Hollywood Stars Game: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actors Jimmy Kimmel and James Denton, former Major Leaguers Ron Cey and Bret Saberhagen and soccer star Mia Hamm are among the celebrities expected to participate in Saturday's 48th annual Hollywood Stars Game at Dodger Stadium at 5:15 p.m. before the Dodgers take on the Pittsburgh Pirates. Since 2004, when the game was changed to softball from baseball, an auxiliary outfield fence was added to offer greater opportunity for home runs.  Fans are also invited to sit on Dodger Stadium's outfield grass and warning track to get a better glimpse of their favorite Hollywood luminaries.

Coming up: Tomko (5-6, 5.45) opposes Oliver Perez (2-9, 6.10) and the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night in the return to Dodger Stadium of former manager Jim Tracy.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.