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Notes: Torre favors experience

Notes: Torre favors experience

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VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre wouldn't use the day his players reported to Spring Training to decide his two most pressing questions of camp, but he dropped a hint Thursday in the event of a close call in the competition for third base and the outfield.

"I've always been one to favor experience," said Torre, who must decide between Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche at third base and has only two outfield spots open with Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier competing.

"A lot has to do with what each one brings to the table. Juan Pierre brings so many things. He plays all the time, he gets 200 hits, steals 60 bases. We know he has no power, but he's a gamer. He's the type of player that fits into a winning situation."

The assumption is that Torre would open the season with Pierre and Garciaparra in the lineup unless they were clearly outplayed in Spring competition. But Torre conceded there are so many players on the roster he doesn't know enough about that he wouldn't speculate on who would be in the lineup six weeks from now.

What's in a number? To pitcher Esteban Loaiza, plenty.

When he was claimed from Oakland by the Dodgers last August, he presented first-base coach Mariano Duncan with a $10,000 Cartier watch in exchange for his favorite uniform number, 25.

But when Loaiza arrived at Dodgertown this week, he discovered that uniform No. 25 had been relocated to the locker of Andruw Jones. Hanging in Loaiza's locker was uniform No. 21.

"I've got some negotiating to do with Andruw," said Loaiza, out a watch and a number.

"I'm going to negotiate a better deal with Andruw," said Duncan. "Maybe I can get a Maserati."

Loaiza said he originally wanted No. 25 when he came up with Pittsburgh because it was his number as a youth, but it belonged to Bobby Bonilla, so the Pirates gave him No. 34. He's struggled to secure his favorite number ever since.

"Pittsburgh gave me No. 34 and said I would be the next Fernando Valenzuela, the next great Mexican pitcher," he said. "When I got traded to Texas, 34 was Nolan Ryan's number, so they gave me 25. Then Texas got Rafael Palmeiro and that was his number, so they gave it to him and gave me 28. When I went to Toronto in 2000, they couldn't give me 25 because it was Carlos Delgado's number, so I wore 21.

"I had 21 with the White Sox, but when I went to the Yankees, Paul O'Neill had that and Jason Giambi had 25, so they gave me 28. In Washington, Wil Cordero already had 25, so they gave me 21. When I signed with Oakland, Mark Kotsay had 21 and they hadn't given out Mark McGwire's 25, but they gave it to me anyway. Then when I came here, they gave me 35, but I changed with Duncan and got 25 and gave him the watch. Then I come here today and find this."

Perhaps Loaiza should learn from Joe Beimel, who chose No. 97 for two reasons.

"It was the year my son was born," he said, "and you never have to worry about somebody else wanting it."

Four score: How many left elbow operations has Hong-Chih Kuo had?

The answer is four.

He says he's fully healed from the latest one, last year's procedure to remove bone chips. Kuo has been throwing off a mound for several months and said he's ready to win a job as a starter or reliever.

Kuo might be the club's best hope to slide a lefty into an otherwise all-righty starting rotation, but it would require something unforeseen like an injury, or a poor Spring Training by Loaiza, who is the early favorite for fifth starter with Jason Schmidt's ongoing rehab from surgery.

An added wrinkle is that Kuo is out of options, so if he doesn't make the staff as a starter or second left-handed reliever, he could be lost off waivers.

Passports please: Torre said the club has a tentative list of players that will take the trip to China for the two-game goodwill series against the Padres. It includes Garciaparra, Jones and Kemp.

"We'll split the squad pretty much in half," Torre said. "There will be an Asian influence [Kuo, Chin-lung Hu and Chan Ho Park, but not Takashi Saito or Hiroki Kuroda]. We just have to make sure people get in their work. You won't see a lot of our [Major League] pitchers. That's a long way to go to throw in the bullpen."

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

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