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Notes: Signs point to Lowe for openers

Notes: Signs point to Lowe for Opening Day

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VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It sounds like Derek Lowe will again be the Dodgers' Opening Day starter, even if it sounds like Lowe might choose someone else.

"You do what's best for the team, and when you have two hard throwers, you might want the sinkerball pitcher between them," he said. "I'm just throwing it out there."

Grady Little, who will make the decision, threw it back.

"I don't think that's all that important," he said. "It doesn't make much difference to me. You could have [hard throwers] back to back and they might be facing different teams."

Little chose Lowe for the opener last year, and he'll probably do it again, even with the addition of Jason Schmidt and Randy Wolf to the rotation. Little might follow Lowe with Brad Penny because it would put Penny in line to pitch April 19 at Coors Field. Penny was 5-0 against the Rockies last year and 2-0 in Denver.

Little said he would not use a fifth starter until the second time around the rotation because of a day off April 5, although further juggling could allow Penny to face the Rockies twice in the first three weeks.

Lowe praised the front office for putting together the best Dodgers team since he arrived two seasons back, but sounded a tad skeptical of new trainer Stan Conte's conditioning regimen that put players through agility drills usually found in a football training camp.

"You won't see one wide receiver go deep in the Dodgers this year, I guarantee that," cracked Lowe.

Finally Miller Time? Greg Miller gets the same questions about his health as he has the past three Spring Trainings, but he's thrilled to report that the answer has changed.

"For the first time in a long time, I feel like I'm one of the pitchers, not an injured pitcher," said the 22-year-old left-hander, who has an outside chance of forcing his way onto a very crowded, veteran pitching staff. "Hopefully, this is the year."

Miller was the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year in 2003, but shoulder surgeries in 2004 and 2005 derailed his trip to the Major Leagues.

Once a hard-throwing, over-the-top starting pitcher, he returned in 2005 a reliever in search of an arm angle that lessened the stress on his repaired shoulder. Last spring he was a sidearmer, but the shoulder has healed to the point where he's back almost over the top and the velocity has returned.

"The different arm slots are what caused my inconsistency last year," said Miller, who walked 46 in 59 2/3 innings last year splitting time between Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A Las Vegas. "I was hurt two years and had to relearn how to throw a way that didn't hurt. Every time I felt a twinge and changed my arm slot. Finally this spring I don't feel limited at all. I feel I'm on the same playing field as everybody else."

He knows the only chance of making the staff in April would be as a reliever, but he said if that doesn't happen, he might ask to resume starting.

"They told me I'm structurally sound to start, and I would absolutely love to go back to that," he said. "But I'd rather make this team as a reliever now."

Miller earned praise from Little, as did young pitchers Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley for "the way they went about their business."

Bargain basement: In recent years, the Dodgers have had luck with pitching reclamation projects, players either released or dumped in trades. From Aaron Sele and Jose Lima to Wilson Alvarez and Omar Daal, each enjoyed a rebirth and made significant contributions as Dodgers.

This year's top candidate to join that list is Joe Mays, a 17-game winner in Minnesota in 2001 now at a crossroads three frustrating years after Tommy John elbow reconstruction.

"It's time for me to put up or shut up and show what I can do or reevaluate my career," said the 31-year-old right-hander.

He didn't look like a rehabbing arm throwing off the mound Monday. Of course, it's still February, and he's picked a tough pitching staff to crack. He went 0-5 last year with Kansas City and Cincinnati, but he said his arm now feels better than it has since the surgery, which sidelined him the entire 2004 season.

Since working last year with Cincinnati Triple-A pitching coach and former Dodger Ted Power, Mays said he's broken his short-arming habit, his confidence has soared and he's out to prove he's capable of another season like 2001. He got his foot in the door and an invitation to camp by working out over the winter with special assistant to general manager Mark Weidemaier.

Tomko throws: Brett Tomko was still limping on his right ankle, but tightly taped he had enough support to push off the side of his foot and make his scheduled bullpen session.

"It felt pretty good," said Tomko, who turned the ankle at home after Saturday's bullpen session.

Closer Takashi Saito came out of his throwing session with no increased discomfort in his strained calf and said he expects to throw off a mound again Tuesday.

Position players are due in Tuesday with the first full-squad workout Wednesday. Filtering in Monday were position players Ramon Martinez, Delwyn Young, Choo Freeman, Luis Gonzalez and Damian Jackson. Still due: Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Jeff Kent, Olmedo Saenz, Marlon Anderson, Tony Abreu and Fernando Tatis.

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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