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Ethier backs Monasterios in first major league start

LOS ANGELES -- Carlos Monasterios hit two batters with pitches in one inning, then escaped a bases-loaded jam. His early workload, however, prevented him from lasting long enough to earn a victory.

Monasterios came out of the Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen to make his first major league start Saturday night, throwing 73 pitches over four innings while allowing a run and three hits. Ramon Ortiz inherited a three-run lead and got credit for the win in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

"It would have been fun to see him go a little bit longer, but you can't push a guy who hasn't had that big a pitch count," catcher Russell Martin said.

"He definitely has good stuff, and he's just starting to learn the slider. He picked it up in spring training, and that was my go-to off-speed pitch tonight. So that pitch is going to be really good for him. And if he can use that with his curveball and mix in his changeup, there's no doubt he can start."

Ortiz (1-1) yielded two leadoff singles over three scoreless innings and struck out five. The right-hander, who turns 37 this month, is pitching for his sixth big league team in the last seven seasons after winning a World Series ring with the Angels in 2002.

Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer and scored on James Loney's double, leading the Dodgers' offense against Zach Duke (2-3), who allowed four runs and nine hits over six innings.

Monasterios walked his first batter, Akinori Iwamura, who was caught stealing by Martin. One out later, Andrew McCutchen homered into the left-field pavilion. But a couple of well-timed visits to the mound by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt settled down Monasterios.

"He kind of battled through his nerves at the beginning of the game," Martin said. "He was just being a little too picky, trying to work off the corners instead of being aggressive early in the count. Rick went out there a couple of times, trying to slow the game down a little and making sure his mind was right. It seemed like it helped him out. He was more aggressive and more competitive."

The Dodgers grabbed a 3-1 lead in the third when Ethier drove an 0-2 pitch to right-center for his seventh home run, after Monasterios singled for his first big league hit and Martin reached on an infield single.

Former Dodger Andy LaRoche stranded three runners in the second when he grounded into a force at third. The rally began when Monasterios plunked Lastings Milledge and Ronny Cedeno before giving up a single to Iwamura.

McCutchen had to duck out of the way to avoid a pitch at his head by Ortiz in the fifth before striking out. Pirates lefty Jack Taschner came on to start the seventh and threw his first pitch behind Ethier.

"The ball slipped," Taschner said. "That's going to happen from time to time. It was a damp night and the ball gets away from you."

Several Dodgers started chirping at Taschner from the dugout, causing him to yell something back. He then gave up doubles to Ethier and Loney, giving Los Angeles a 5-1 lead.

"Obviously, we threw a couple of pitches up and in at McCutchen and they didn't like it," Martin said. "But you don't want to hit anybody in the head. It came close, but that's the way you're supposed to get that guy out. You've got to pitch him inside.

"Then they threw a ball behind Andre. I know it's a part of the game, but it's just a part of the game that I don't really understand and it just [ticked] me off. I let them know my disagreement and it was over."

Pirates right fielder Garrett Jones sat out his first game of the season after spending Saturday afternoon at a hospital. He checked himself in because of digestive problems, after some food he ate Friday night became stuck in his throat and he was unable to swallow it.

Jones, who leads the Pirates with 14 RBIs and four home runs despite batting only .207 through his first 23 games, was given medicine to treat the condition after undergoing some tests. He arrived at the ballpark shortly before the first pitch but went back to the team hotel before the game ended, team spokesman Dan Hart said.

"He's feeling a little better, but a little tired, obviously," Pittsburgh manager John Russell said. "He went through a lot today and it was kind of a long day for him, but he was in good spirits. We'll see how he is tomorrow."

Game notes
Dodgers manager Joe Torre watched the Kentucky Derby in his office while his first Derby horse, Homeboykris, finished 16th in a field of 20 on a sloppy track after being bet down from 50-1 to 25-1. The 3-year-old gelding was 54 1-2 lengths behind victorious Super Saver in the 1 1-4 mile event. "We didn't know how he'd handle (the mud)," Torre said. "On his mom's side, there are a couple of wins in the mud, so it's in the breeding somewhere. His mudder was a mudder." ... Dodgers minor league OF Andrew Lambo was suspended 50 games following a second positive test for a drug of abuse.