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Knuckle Balls and Line Drives

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The 27-year old knuckleballer Charlie Haeger will be making his first appearance with the Dodgers this season after being a non-roster invitee to spring training. Haeger’s only start came on May 10, 2006 pitching for the Chicago White Sox against the Angels, his first appearance in the Majors. He was clocked for six runs, five earned, in 4 1/3 innings pitched.

“It’s a high stress game for a catcher to catch the knuckleball,” catcher Brad Ausmus said who will be catching tonight for Haeger.

“Baseballs normally thrown by pitchers have a standard movement,” Ausmus explained about the complexities of the knuckleball. “That doesn’t apply to a knuckleball. You don’t know where it’s going next. There’s no standard movement and each pitch is different than the last.”

To catch Ausmus will be using a hybrid catching glove that’s larger than a catcher’s mitt but smaller than a first baseman’s glove.

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“It’s as if a catcher’s mitt and a first baseman’s mitt had a baby,” Ausmus explained. “It’s a little bit a thinner.”

While afraid of looking like a fool behind the plate, Ausmus did joke about an easy aspect of catching a knuckleballer.

“It’s a very easy game to call,” Ausmus joked.

Manager Joe Torre, like the rest of us, is interested in what will unfold tonight.

“We’re going to sit and watch,” Torre said. “It’s just a matter of how effective he is with his location.”

“I don’t think he throws the same percentage of knuckleballs as [Boston Red Sox starter Tim] Wakefield,” Torre said. “He has other equipment also: the breaking ball, a slider and a fastball. The knuckleball is an add-on for him.

“The thing about the knuckleball you really have to let the ball come to you. If you start reaching for it before it’s ready to cross the plate, by the time it crosses the plate it’s going to be in a different spot. So you try to sit back as much as you can.”

As for starter Hiroki Kuroda who was felled by a line drive in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks, his health is better than expected.

“I think it’s remarkable where he is now,” Torre said of Kuroda’s health. “He continues to have a smile on his face, he slept well last night.”

Dodger trainer Stan Conte put Kuroda through an impact test this afternoon which was designed by the University of Pittsburgh which tests the function of the brain. In a concussion although the brain anatomically is fine chemical imbalances may occur that can alter the function of different areas of the brain.

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“We were able to send the results to the University of Pittsburgh and get some of the results to show that he had a mild concussion which we knew, but nothing worse than that,” Conte said. “A lot of his reaction times were normal in this test, a very good indicator that things weren’t really bad.”

As for Kuroda’s symptoms, Conte said they are much improved. “He has a little bit of a headache now and again, but at times no headache at all,” Conte said.

“I’ll tell you what I asked him some questions today in English for Kenji, he seemed to know the question before Kenji translated it,” Torre joked, “So I’m not sure what triggered over there. I’m not accusing him of anything.”

Conte, however, stressed the concern of concussions.

“This is not a rotator cuff,” Conte said. “This is not tendinitis. This is a brain injury, and he needs to be at 100% before he gets back out there.”

Torre said that Kuroda will not be making his next scheduled start on Thursday, and the Dodgers are still unsure whether to put Kuroda on the disabled list and who will make the start on Thursday.

In for a three-game series comes the St. Louis Cardinals who took three of four games against the Dodgers at Busch Stadium a couple of weeks ago. Heading into this matchup the Dodgers all-time record against the Cards stand at 993-992.

While the Dodgers come into the game tonight at 14-16 since the All Star break, the Cardinals have been hot winning eight of their last nine games. With Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday in the lineup, the Cardinals have become one of the more dangerous lineups in the National League.

Here are the lineups:

St. Louis Cardinals

  1. Skip Schumaker, 2B
  2. Brendan Ryan, SS
  3. Albert Pujols, 1B
  4. Matt Holliday, LF
  5. Ryan Ludwick, RF
  6. Rick Ankiel, CF
  7. Mark DeRosa, 3B
  8. Yadier Molina, C
  9. Chris Carpenter, P

LA Dodgers

  1. Rafael Furcal, SS
  2. Orlando Hudson, 2B
  3. Andre Ethier, RF
  4. Manny Ramirez, LF
  5. Casey Blake, 3B
  6. Matt Kemp, CF
  7. James Loney, 1B
  8. Brad Ausmus, C
  9. Charlie Haeger, P