Haeger makes his Dodgers debut as the starting pitcher against the St. Louis Cardinals, their ace Chris Carpenter and their perennial MVP candidate Albert Pujols.
"That's a good lineup. It'll be fun tomorrow," said Haeger, the latest in a long line of fifth-starter candidates. "I like to challenge myself. That lineup is so good, you can't take an at-bat off or a pitch off. You've got to be focused 100 percent and that's something I thrive on. I like a challenge. I'm excited for it."
Haeger, signed as a non-roster pitcher, was never seriously considered for a Major League job in Spring Training. But as the Dodgers burned through starters this season, he consistently contained Triple-A hitters at Albuquerque and finally got the callup last week after going 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA.
To give Chad Billingsley's tender hamstring an extra day of rest, the Dodgers decided to tab Haeger and leave Jeff Weaver, who filled the fifth-starter spot last Wednesday in San Francisco, in the bullpen. Haeger last pitched on Aug. 7 against Portland.
"I was kind of surprised," Haeger said of learning he'd get the Monday night start. "I didn't really know if Bills would start or Weaver. Sure, I'm excited and looking forward to it. Getting a start, that's what I'm more accustomed to doing. My other big league appearances, all but one was in relief. I just hope to go out and give a quality game and get a win.
Haeger has three previous callups, two with the White Sox in 2006 and 2007 and one last year with the Padres. His only start was May 10, 2006, for the White Sox against the Angels, when he was charged with five earned runs in 4 1/3 innings, walking six.
"It wasn't great," he said. "It didn't go very well. I was a little amped up. I walked like six in five innings. It was a rough outing. I don't know if I learned something from that one game, but I think I've learned from a compilation of all my games. For me, it just comes down to throwing strikes, no matter what level you're at. Strikes are key."
The Dodgers will be looking to even the score against the Cardinals, having dropped three of four games in St. Louis late last month. They were outscored 16-1 in the first two losses, dropped a 3-2 decision in 15 innings, then won, 5-3, in 10 innings.Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Charlie Haeger (0-0, -.-- ERA)
Haeger will be making his Dodgers debut, and he gets to do it against Pujols, but the right-handed knuckleballer has 10 previous Major League appearances over the past three seasons with the White Sox and Padres for a career mark of 1-2 with a 6.35 ERA. He has a more varied repertoire than most knuckleball pitchers, with a fastball and breaking ball that he's willing to throw. STL: RHP Chris Carpenter (12-3, 2.27 ERA)
As Carpenter builds his counting stats, he gets closer and closer to a serious National League Cy Young candidacy. He's hurt by the amount of time he missed due to injury earlier this year, but that's about the only thing going against the right-hander. He keeps pitching deep into games and pitching well. And in his last start, Carpenter's velocity spiked into the mid-90s, adding still another wrinkle to an already impressive arsenal. Tidbits
Andre Ethier has 18 RBIs in his past 16 games. ... Orlando Hudson has reached base safely in 15 consecutive games, while hitting .304. ... Russell Martin snapped an 0-for-15 slump with a fourth-inning single on Sunday. ... After going 3-for-21 with runners in scoring position the first two games of the series, the Dodgers went 3-for-7 on Sunday. Tickets
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Tuesday: Dodgers (Chad Billingsley, 11-6, 3.73) vs. Cardinals (Mitchell Boggs, 1-1, 3.78), 7:10 p.m. PT
Wednesday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 8-7, 2.91) vs. Cardinals (Adam Wainwright, 14-7, 2.62), 7:10 p.m. PT
Thursday: Dodgers (TBD) vs. Cubs (Tom Gorzelanny, 5-2, 5.24), 7:10 p.m. PT
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.