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McDonald to stay in Dodgers' rotation

McDonald to remain in LA rotation

DENVER -- James McDonald remains in the starting rotation, according to manager Joe Torre, while injured Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda said his trip back to Los Angeles for a Monday medical exam should not be viewed as a setback in his recovery from a strained oblique muscle.

Kuroda, on the disabled list since April 7, experienced recurring tightness after a Thursday bullpen session. But he said by Sunday it was much improved.

"It feels so much better than yesterday," said Kuroda, although he hasn't thrown a ball since Thursday. "I had a little pain after throwing on the mound Thursday. But being able to throw Thursday gave me the confidence that my shoulder is still strong. Seeing the doctor determines where I go from here. It's definitely not a setback."

Nonetheless, Kuroda is still probably weeks away from returning. His spot in the rotation has been taken by Eric Stults, and the Dodgers are 3-0 in his starts, while the club also has won the past two starts of rookie James McDonald. Saturday night's win was McDonald's first as a Major Leaguer, although he walked four in five innings and twice showed a lack of concentration that seemed to fuel the Rockies' rally.

"He did that last night and it is baffling to me, because he gets [Yorvit] Torrealba on two pitches, then walks the pitcher, which he's done before, and the leadoff hitter and all of a sudden he's holding on," Torre said. "Losing focus is the only way to describe it."

Torre said it can become a trap for young pitchers to let up when they pitch to pitchers, just trying to lay pitches in there. They fall behind in the count and start thinking about trying to throw a strike, which only makes it tougher.

"A certain panic sets in," Torre said. "Once he gets out of rhythm, he starts thinking about things he shouldn't be thinking and the game speeds up."

Jeff Weaver made his first Triple-A start Saturday night, making 60 pitches and allowing one earned run in 3 1/3 innings. Eric Milton has pitched well in two of his past three starts at Triple-A. But Torre said "we have no plans yet [on replacing McDonald in the rotation]. Until they tell me we do, he'll still be that guy. No anticipation to change it. We haven't really talked a lot about any change right now. We'll wait until [Cory] Wade comes back and see where we are."

Wade is scheduled for a one-inning rehab assignment Tuesday at Class A Inland Empire. If that goes well, he'll likely return from a stint on the disabled list with shoulder bursitis.

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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