Dodgers meshing youth with experience

Dodgers meshing youth with experience

LOS ANGELES -- The way Dodgers manager Joe Torre sees it, the Dodgers have the perfect blend of youth and experience.

After all, the club has 13 players under the age of 28 on its current 25-man roster as well as savvy veterans such as Juan Pierre, Casey Blake, Rafael Furcal, Orlando Hudson, Mark Loretta, Brad Ausmus, Randy Wolf and Jeff Weaver.

Add it all up and the team has the best record in the Major Leagues and great team chemistry to boot.

"This is about as good of a situation as I've had with everybody seemingly getting along," Torre said. "Not that that's necessary, but it makes it a lot more comfortable."

The Dodgers' contingent of young players such as Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Russell Martin and James Loney also benefited from advancing to the National League Championship Series last season against the Phillies, whom they play on Friday in the second game of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium.

Torre said that even though Dodgers lost the Phillies in five games in the NLCS last season, it was still a valuable learning experience for his young players.

"I saw it during Spring Training," Torre said. "They were able to see the fun aspect of it. Donnie [Mattingly, hitting coach] mentioned it first because he'd go into the locker room. It was a whole different group with smiles on their faces. I think they liked what happened last year and it gave them a lot of confidence that they can perform in a full house in a hostile environment."

But since the Dodgers lost Manny Ramirez to a 50-game suspension, it's been the veterans that have picked up the slack.

Pierre, Hudson and Blake, in particular, have been huge offensively in Ramirez's absence as the club still leads in the NL in runs scored.

"The veterans are doing what they're supposed to do," Torre said. "You can even see it in the dugout with the way they carry themselves. They're never too serious."

The Dodgers will lean on one of their veterans on Friday when Eric Milton toes the rubber against the team he played for in 2004.

Milton has been a pleasant surprise in his two starts for the Dodgers, as he is 2-0 with a 3.14 ERA in two starts after last pitching the Majors in 2007.

Pitching matchup
LAD: LHP Eric Milton (2-0, 3.14 ERA)
Milton continued to show steady improvement in his third start, holding the Cubs scoreless at Wrigley Field for 5 1/3 innings on Sunday before hitting the wall and being removed. He was charged with allowing two runs on six hits with four strikeouts and a walk. Milton again showed that with a rebuilt elbow he can pitch effectively in the Major Leagues, but it remains to be seen if he can increase his endurance beyond the 80-pitch mark.

PHI: LHP Jamie Moyer (4-5, 6.75 ERA)
Forty-six-year-old left-hander Jamie Moyer was terrific on Sunday against the Nationals. In arguably his best start of the season, Moyer gave up three hits and one earned run -- a solo homer to Josh Willingham -- in six strong innings on his way to his 250th career victory. Moyer threw 102 pitches, 62 for strikes. More importantly, he struck out four and walked none. Walks had been a problem for Moyer this season. Not this time. Moyer kept the Nationals off the basepaths and allowed his defense to make plays.

Right-hander Claudio Vargas, who has been on the 60-day disabled list because of elbow tendinitis, threw off flat ground on Thursday and is expected to throw two innings in his next rehab start. He pitched a scoreless inning in his first appearance with Class A Inland Empire on Tuesday. ... First baseman Doug Mientkiewicz fielded ground balls at first base on Thursday as he continues his rehab from a dislocated right shoulder. But Torre said that Mientkiewicz is still a ways from beginning other baseball-related activities such as throwing and hitting. ... Loney hosted seven young baseball players from the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Los Angeles program during batting practice as part of his personal community initiative, Loney's Lounge. ... Andre Ethier and Clayton Kershaw are scheduled to sign autographs at the Northridge Macy's from noon to 1 p.m. PT on Friday.

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On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda, 1-1, 2.53) vs. Phillies (Joe Blanton, 4-3, 5.86), 1:10 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 3-1, 3.21) vs. Phillies (Antonio Bastardo, 1-0, 1.50), 5:00 p.m. PT
• Monday: Off-day

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