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At long last, a start for Jones

At long last, a start for Jones

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LOS ANGELES -- A decade journey through professional baseball's vast landscape is expected to take Mitch Jones into the starting lineup of a Major League baseball game Friday, when the Dodgers open another Freeway Series with the Angels in Anaheim.

Manager Joe Torre said he plans to have Jones serve as designated hitter Friday, in what will be Jones' first Major League start, only two days after he notched his first Major League hit, a bloop pinch-single that earned him a standing ovation at Dodger Stadium.

"I assumed I might get one of these games," Jones said Thursday night. "I've looked forward to this since I started pro ball. I'll take any chance I get all day long. Right now, all I want to do is help this team win, and I feel I can help a Major League team win. Maybe when the season is over, I'll step back and let it sink in."

Jones is the classic slugging left fielder who hasn't convinced an executive that he has enough skills other than the long ball. He has 221 career Minor League home runs, including 56 over parts of the last three seasons that he played for the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate. He slugged five home runs his first nine games back after returning from hitting .111 in Japan last summer.

The knock he hears most often is that he strikes out too much, roughly once ever three at-bats.

"They always mention my strikeouts, but there are guys all over the big leagues with the same strikeouts and less power," he said this spring. "Ryan Howard won the MVP with 200 strikeouts."

Drafted in 2001 by the Yankees, he said that club was loaded during its title run and there was no way to break through. He was even called up for two days, but never got in a game. He left the Yankees as a six-year free agent for the Dodgers Triple-A team, but left midway through the 2007 season for Japan and a chance to make the kind of money they don't pay Minor Leaguers.

He'll be looked to for some power in a lineup that has been missing Manny Ramirez against an Angels club that beat the Dodgers twice in three tries in Los Angeles last month.

"They've won six in a row and they just beat a tough Giants club," Torre said of the Angels. "They are getting it together. They are intimidating, they can beat you in a lot of different ways. We don't have the speed they have. We bite and scratch, but [Mike Scioscia's] club is pretty much bred to do that. They keep plugging in another fast guy. I really respect what Mike has done in the years he's been there. You knew from the get-go what kind of club he wanted to have. You know as a catcher the kind of club that makes you uncomfortable, and that's the kind of club that makes you uncomfortable."

Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Chad Billingsley (9-3, 2.72 ERA)
Billingsley allowed three runs -- two earned -- over seven innings against the Rangers on Sunday and earned his ninth win of the season, tying him for the National League lead. He has been a workhorse this season, throwing at least six innings in 13 of 14 starts and lasting at least seven innings in eight starts. Billingsley has allowed less than four earned runs in all but one appearance this year. On the road this season, he is 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six starts. Billingsley is 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in five career games -- three starts -- against the Angels.

LAA: LHP Joe Saunders (7-4, 3.66 ERA)
Winless in his previous three outings, having yielded 13 earned runs in 18 innings, Saunders was back in All-Star form against the Padres on Saturday night. He came within two outs of a complete game, holding San Diego to one run on eight hits, walking one and striking out five men. He'd issued five walks in six innings in his previous start in Detroit, so his command was back. Saunders is 1-1 in two career outings against the Dodgers with a 2.92 ERA.

Tidbits
Orlando Hudson has 36 RBIs, five short of his total last year, and he leads the Dodgers with 45 runs scored. ... Brent Leach has allowed one run over his last eight innings and Ronald Belisario hasn't allowed a run over his last 6 1/3 innings. ... James McDonald was named Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for the week of June 8-15. The 24-year-old went 1-0 with a 0.64 ERA (one earned run, 14 innings pitched) in two starts, striking out 23 batters. ... Scott Elbert has struck out nine or more in four straight starts for Chattanooga, fanning 37 batters in 24 innings in that time. ... Matthew Sartor has worked eight consecutive scoreless innings over his last six appearances for Chattanooga, and has allowed just two earned runs in 20 1/3 innings beginning May 1 for a 0.86 ERA in that time.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• KCAL

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Dodgers (Jeff Weaver, 3-1, 3.72) at Angels (Jered Weaver, 7-2, 2.08), 6:05 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 3-5, 4.13) at Angels (John Lackey, 2-2, 6.10), 5:05 p.m. PT
• Monday: Off-day

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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