Notes: Pierre shows off speed

Notes: Pierre shows off speed

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- There are baseball experts who don't like Juan Pierre's speed-based game and don't believe he should be in the Dodgers starting lineup, let along leading it off.

But one baseball expert of some renown likes Pierre's game -- and his opinion is the only one that really matters.

"I took notice of him for the first time when he helped beat me in the '03 World Series," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, referring to when Pierre was on the Marlins and Torre managed the Yankees. "I like his energy. He really doesn't strike out. He puts the ball in play and that gives the opposition a chance to mess up. To me, he's a good teammate. We have major decisions to make. We have more than four outfielders that can play at the Major League level."

Torre said he won't decide on a starting outfield until after the club returns from China on March 17, but he's been playing Pierre in left field and batting him leadoff. The former center fielder had a big game on Monday, making a diving catch, singling twice with two stolen bases and a run scored. Pierre came into the game 1-for-11.

Torre said he's heard the criticism of Pierre's game, particularly last year after Pierre signed a five-year contract with the Dodgers. Without saying he will give Pierre the job, Torre is showing no signs that he won't.

"He probably put a lot of pressure on himself," Torre said. "Maybe the expectations of people were more than they should be. People expect perfection. Sometimes players try too hard."

Injury update: Rafael Furcal left Monday's game after two innings with tight hamstrings, although he dismissed it as minor.

"I worked too hard yesterday," said Furcal, talking about extra weight lifting. "The ball hit up the middle, I thought I would get it and they I felt my hammies. No take chances, but I'm OK. It's nothing, I think."

Furcal, though, has had nagging injuries both of his previous Springs with the Dodgers. In 2006, he was slowed while recovering from knee surgery and developed a sore shoulder. In 2007, while nursing another sore shoulder, he suffered a bad ankle sprain in a collision with teammate Jason Repko and it bothered him the entire year.

Chad Billingsley, who had been nursing a tight groin muscle, made his first exhibition start and allowed one run over two innings.

"I just wanted to come out of this healthy, which I did, and I'll turn it up a bit next time," said Billingsley.

Jason Schmidt has resumed playing catch after shutting down for almost a week with a fatigued shoulder.

Takashi Saito gave his strained calf another day of rest. Saito came to camp with a similar ailment last year and made his first game appearance on March 7. He said his current calf injury is less serious than last year's and he expects to see game action around that same date, or by the end of this week.

Rudy Seanez tested his strained groin muscle on Monday, going through shadow deliveries off a mound without a ball. He said he might try throwing off a mound by Wednesday.

Tony Abreu continues to be limited because of lingering discomfort around the area of last October's sports hernia surgery. Torre said Abreu might be ready to play over the weekend. Abreu had an impressive Spring Training last year, which put him on the club's radar, but the injury has lingered in one for or another for nearly a year.

"It's a concern," Torre said of Abreu. "I want an opportunity, since I'm leaving next week, and I've been limited on what I can see."

Game recap: In a 4-4 tie with the Orioles, Xavier Paul slugged a two-run homer and Andre Ethier singled home the tying run in a three-run bottom of the ninth. James Loney had a pair of doubles. Jason Johnson pitched two scoreless innings.

Presidential invite: Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda spoke on Monday at the George H.W. Bush presidential Library and Museum in College Station, Tex. The former President is opening a baseball exhibit entitled "Born to Play Baseball" and Lasorda is part of a guest panel including Hall of Famer Joe Morgan, Astros owner Drayton McLane and Jeff Bagwell.

Coming up: The Dodgers play a split-squad doubleheader on Tuesday against Washington. They travel to Viera for a day game, then host the Nationals in a night game at Vero Beach.

In the day game, fifth-starter candidate Esteban Loaiza will open, followed by youngsters James McDonald, Cory Wade, Mario Alvarez and Justin Orenduff against Washington starter Matt Chico. In the night game, Hiroki Kuroda makes his second spring start, followed by three expected members of the Major League bullpen -- Jonathan Broxton, Joe Beimel and Scott Proctor -- against Washington starter Jason Bergmann.

Also at Dodgertown, Yhency Brazoban is expected to make his first exhibition appearance after last year's shoulder surgery and struggling left-hander Greg Miller could return after being unable to retire any of five batters on Friday and working with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax on Sunday.

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