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NATIONAL LEAGUE


NATIONAL LEAGUE
The dream that James McDonald was living on Friday night quickly turned into the nightmare.

Runs were scoring. Fans in red shirts were screaming.

The sound and fury could be stopped only by Manager Joe Torre, who strolled to the mound and removed the ball from his hand.

McDonald, the 24-year-old rookie who grew up in Long Beach, lasted a mere 2 1/3 innings in his first major league start. The Dodgers' two-time minor league pitcher of the year was pounded for five runs in a 9-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

"I lost my focus a little bit," McDonald said of the third inning that doomed him. "Maybe I should've slowed down a little bit and paced myself better."

When the game turned on McDonald, it turned suddenly and ruthlessly.

He retired the first six batters he faced and received a one-run lead in the second inning when Matt Kemp scored on a single by Brad Ausmus, who started in place of a resting Russell Martin.

But everything changed in the third inning, starting with a leadoff home run by Chris Young that sailed over Manny Ramirez's head in left field.

Chris Snyder flied out to right field, but that was the last out McDonald would record.

He issued consecutive walks to pitcher Jon Garland and Felipe Lopez. He hit Eric Byrnes to load the bases and walked Stephen Drew to force in the go-ahead run.

The bleeding didn't stop, as Conor Jackson singled to right to drive in two runs.

McDonald was replaced by Ramon Troncoso, who gave up a run-scoring sacrifice fly to Chad Tracy that extended the Diamondbacks' lead to 5-1.

That was enough for Garland, who had drawn some interest from the Dodgers in the off-season.

The former Angels pitcher faced only one batter more than minimum from the third inning to the sixth. The Dodgers didn't score again until the seventh inning when Casey Blake belted a two-run home run that closed the gap to 6-3.

That the Dodgers would meet such a fate on a day they had to turn to their fifth starter wasn't entirely unexpected.

Jason Schmidt was a candidate for the job but only in rhetoric, as management wasn't counting on him to return from the shoulder problems that limited him to six starts in the first two years of his three-year, $47-million contract.

Remembering how Chan Ho Park showed up to camp last year as a non-roster player and became a major part of their pitching staff, the budget-conscious Dodgers signed a few low-priced arms and invited them to compete for the final spot in the rotation: Shawn Estes ($550,000), Claudio Vargas ($400,000) and Eric Milton ($650,000).

Also in the mix was Eric Stults ($402,000).

But when the pitchers in that group started posting inflated earned-run averages or complaining of arm trouble, the Dodgers turned to McDonald ($400,000), whom they had initially planned to use as a reliever at the start of the season and slowly integrate into the rotation.

But McDonald, who made his major league debut as a September call-up last year and forced his way on to the Dodgers' postseason roster, said he wasn't discouraged by the way the evening unfolded for him. Upon being taken out, he changed his shirt in the clubhouse and quickly returned to the dugout to watch the remainder of the game with his teammates.

"It's a small step in my development," McDonald said. "It makes me want to pitch tomorrow if I could."

Torre noted the Dodgers could use their off day on Tuesday to skip the fifth starter's next turn in the rotation but made it clear he stood behind his young pitcher.

"For certain he's going to be out there pitching, whether it's in the rotation or out of the bullpen," Torre said. "He certainly didn't do any damage to himself with this start."

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 11, 2009

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