Notes: Intrasquad action on Wednesday
First game features Opening Day starter Lowe and young arms
VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It's only intrasquad, but at least it's a game the Dodgers will play on Wednesday after nearly two monotonous weeks of stretching, conditioning and practice.
Opening Day starter Derek Lowe is expected to pitch, as are Joe Mays, D.J. Houlton and youngsters Scott Elbert, Zach Hammes and Mike Megrew.
Lowe -- whose 80 victories since 2002 are tied for the second-highest total in the Major Leagues -- is just getting in innings, but for Mays and Houlton, it's a chance to make an impression in their first game action of the spring.
Mays is trying to make the club as a non-roster player in a prolonged comeback from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. Houlton, who spent all of 2005 in the Major Leagues as a Rule 5 draft pick, is attempting to get his career back on track after spending the entire 2006 season as a forgotten man at Triple-A.
The game is expected to last no longer than five innings.
Manager Grady Little announced his lineup for Thursday's exhibition opener against the Braves in Atlanta: shortstop Rafael Furcal, center fielder Juan Pierre, left fielder Matt Kemp, first baseman Olmedo Saenz, third baseman Wilson Betemit, catcher Russell Martin, right fielder Andre Ethier and second baseman Ramon Martinez.
Expected regulars not making the trip are first baseman Nomar Garciaparra, second baseman Jeff Kent and left fielder Luis Gonzalez -- the 3-4-5 hitters in the batting order.
Pitchers on call: In Thursday's exhibition opener against the Braves in Orlando, starter Randy Wolf will be joined by Chad Billingsley, Travis Smith, Chin-Hui Tsao, Tim Hamulack and John Meloan.
In Friday's home opener against Washington, starter Jason Schmidt will be followed by Mark Hendrickson, Greg Miller, Matt White and Joe Beimel.
On Saturday against the Mets at Port St. Lucie, Brad Penny will pitch, along with Hong-Chih Kuo and Eric Stults. Lowe will pitch Sunday, as will Brett Tomko, when there are split-squad games against Atlanta in Vero Beach and Washington at Viera.
Saito improving: Closer Takashi Saito is keeping pace with the other pitchers in his bullpen and batting practice sessions, but he still isn't participating in fielding practice as he returns slowly from a calf strain. Saito gets his fielding practice by throwing balls off a wall and fielding the caroms.
Saito said of all the adjustments he needed to make last year, his first in the Major Leagues, blending in with teammates who don't speak his native language of Japanese wasn't one of them.
"Not at all," he said. "Everybody is a good guy. We all got along great. I feel I know them as if I spoke English."
Brazoban's rehab continues: The Dodgers know he still has a ways to go, but they are becoming increasingly optimistic about the progress of reliever Yhency Brazoban, who had Tommy John elbow surgery last April. Brazoban is throwing regularly off the mound with good velocity and is not complaining of any discomfort.
Hall of Fame results: Although the Veterans Committee did not elect any new Hall of Famers when results were announced on Tuesday, two Dodgers posted sizeable gains in their vote totals from previous elections.
With 75 percent of votes cast by living Hall of Famers needed for election, Maury Wills was named on 40.2 percent of the ballots compared to 32.5 percent in 2005, and Don Newcombe jumped from 10 percent to 20.7 percent.
Gil Hodges, however, slipped from 65 percent to 61 percent; former owner Walter O'Malley went from 48.1 percent to 44.4 percent; and former general manager Buzzie Bavasi dropped from 43 percent to 37 percent. Hodges finished third among players behind Ron Santo and Jim Kaat, and O'Malley was second in the composite voting behind umpire Doug Harvey.
Fighting for a job: Last spring, Martinez came into camp on a Minor League contract and won the utility infielder job from Oscar Robles, although he said he didn't feel comfortable about his chances until he was told before the Freeway Series.
And now that he's in camp on the Major League roster with a guaranteed $850,000 contract?
"Doesn't mean a thing," said Martinez. "I needed to have a good spring last year and I need to have a good spring this year. There are a bunch of guys here that want to be in the big leagues."
If Martinez is threatened for the role, the most likely challengers are Damian Jackson and Wilson Valdez, because both can play shortstop and none of the other projected reserves can. Jackson is the most intriguing because he has experience playing center field. Valdez has been taking fly balls to create more options for his career.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.