Nomo to Pitch Opening Day for Dodgers
Thursday, March 20th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
VERO BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Hideo Nomo is to pitch the season opener for the Los Angeles Dodgers against four-time defending NL Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson.
Nomo won 14 of his final 15 decisions last year and didn't lose after July 16. He was picked Thursday by manager Jim Tracy for the March 31 game at Arizona.
``I'm a little surprised,'' the 34-year-old right-hander said through an interpreter. ``I didn't think I'd be in this position.''
Tracy said Nomo deserved a reward for the way he closed last season, when he finished 16-6 with a 3.39 ERA.
``There's definitely something to be said for that,'' Tracy said. ``It's ludicrous to think otherwise. Out of his last 16 starts, 15 were just top-notch performances. He never missed a start. He's very worthy of having this assignment.''
The 39-year-old Johnson was a career-best 24-5 with 334 strikeouts and a 2.32 ERA last year.
Odalis Perez, 15-10 with a 3.00 ERA last season, will start the second game on April 1 against Arizona's Curt Schilling, and Kevin Brown, 3-4 with a 4.81 ERA during an injury-plagued 2002 season, will pitch the third game against the Diamondbacks.
Tracy didn't announce his final two starters. Darren Dreifort, Kazuhisa Ishii and Andy Ashby are competing for the two spots.
Brown, who started three of the last four Dodgers' openers, expected Nomo to get the assignment this year. Brown was on the disabled list twice with elbow problems last season and had a protruding disc in his back repaired in June.
``I'm not surprised,'' he said. ``It's kind of hard to find any fault in their reasoning. They've set everyone up so it gives the team the best chance to win.
``It's not like I'm coming off a healthy year. Hideo threw great for the team last year. He deserves the opportunity.''
Brown was limited to 17 appearances _ 10 of them starts _ but has had a terrific spring. In his latest outing, Wednesday against Montreal, he allowed three hits in six shutout innings while walking none and striking out eight.
Nomo will be making his second opening-day start and first with the Dodgers. Nomo became the first Japanese pitcher ever to start on opening day when he helped the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics 7-4 on April 3, 2000.
Nomo downplayed the importance of the opening-day assignment and said he simply wanted to stay injury-free and help his team win.
``I don't feel this is any extra pressure or responsibility,'' Nomo said. ``I treat every game the same.''