Notes: Kemp will get at-bats with LA

Notes: Kemp will get at-bats with LA

MILWAUKEE -- When Dodgers manager Grady Little said Monday that Matt Kemp would start in right field Tuesday night against Milwaukee left-hander Chris Capuano, it helped explain why Kemp made the Opening Day roster and James Loney didn't.

It comes down to opportunity. Kemp is a right-handed hitting outfielder, Loney a left-handed hitting first baseman. As long as Nomar Garciaparra is healthy, Loney can hit .380 (as he did last year) or .480 or .580 in Las Vegas and that won't mean there's room for him with the Dodgers. There's only one first-base job, and it's Garciaparra's and it's likely to stay that way through 2008.

The outfield, though, is a different story. Although Juan Pierre is likely to play every day in center field, Andre Ethier started in right Monday and he's already shown a tendency to slump. Luis Gonzalez is the left fielder and he's 39. All three are left-handed hitters, so there will be at-bats for a right-handed hitter like Kemp, although Little said he was not committing to a strict platoon.

Little will make sure of getting Kemp at-bats, as long as he does something productive with them. Kemp was 2-for-3 with a triple against Capuano last year.

Little compared Kemp to Chipper Jones last year, an indication of how impressed Little was with Kemp. The 22-year-old had a slow start this Spring Training, but caught fire over the final two weeks and won the last outfielder spot over Larry Bigbie, who out-hit Kemp by 111 points.

Bigbie, who had an escape clause and could have become a free agent, accepted his assignment to Las Vegas.

"I think I showed a lot of improvement over the last two weeks," said Kemp, who led the club with four homers in 65 at-bats in the spring. "I know I said I'm not much for sitting around. But I can adjust. I was a little surprised when I got the word. I know James was disappointed, but he's going to go down and do what he has to do to get back. He's not the type that will let it affect the way he plays. He'll turn it on."

Loney cools off: Loney was bitter when told he would return to Las Vegas, but assistant general manager Logan White said Loney will report.

"He's turned the page," said White. "Sometimes you have no control over the hand you're dealt. He knows he has to go down there and be ready when the opportunity arises."

Furcal not ready: Rafael Furcal is on the disabled list with a sprained ankle and is eligible to be activated Saturday, although Monday he didn't sound like he'd be ready for that.

"This is worse than the one I had in 2002," said Furcal, who was injured Mar. 22 "I still haven't run on it, I'm not even trying now. I don't want it to go backward. Some days it starts to feel better, then the next day it hurts again. A week ago, I thought it was feeling good and I tried to do something, like leading off, and that didn't work. On the plane yesterday, it swelled up a lot. It's a long season and I'd rather be out a week than the whole year."

opening day 2007

Little said he was still hopeful Furcal would be able to play Saturday, "but we're not locked in for sure."

Wilson Valdez made the Opening Day roster in place of Furcal, but Ramon Martinez started at shortstop Monday.

Brazoban passes Kuo: It looks like reliever Yhency Brazoban could be helping the Dodgers before Hong-Chih Kuo.

Brazoban, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction last April, could appear in a Minor League rehab assignment as soon as next week.

Kuo, who strained a muscle in the back of his shoulder, will begin throwing when the club returns home next week, but he'll have missed three weeks. And when he returns to game action, it likely will be at Las Vegas.

No continuity: The Dodgers have started different players on Opening Day for the last six years at first base and the last four years at third base and catcher. The first basemen: Garciaparra, Olmedo Saenz, Hee-Seop Choi, Shawn Green, Fred McGriff and Eric Karros. The third basemen: Wilson Betemit, Bill Mueller, Jose Valentin and Adrian Beltre. The catchers: Russell Martin, Sandy Alomar Jr., Jason Phillips and Paul Lo Duca.

Coming up: Randy Wolf starts for the Dodgers against Capuano at 5:05 p.m. PT on Tuesday. Wolf has been more impressive this spring than he was last year coming off elbow surgery. He said he's completely healthy and he's pitched like it. He's 1-0 with a 2.77 ERA in his last two starts at Miller Park. He comes into the game with a nine-game win streak dating back to June, 2005.

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