Chuck Haeger Show Off Knuckleball

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dd88
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The preparation Charlie Haeger undergoes for a start is pretty straightforward.

He doesn't bog himself down with statistics and trends on the hitters he'll face. The only thing he really concerns himself with is whether a hitter is likely to steal a base or not.

For a knuckleballer, that makes sense. Haeger will flutter his knuckler toward the plate, regardless of who's at-bat.

But is weather.com part of his pregame scouting report? With a pitch as temperamental as a knuckleball, surely Haeger checks that Web site out before he pitches.

"No, I really don't," said Haeger, who will start Saturday against the Cubs in a FOX Game of the Week announced by Dick Stockton and Eric Karros.

"It's better when it's hot and humid, that's for sure. It's easier to grip it."

The game marks Haeger's second start with the Dodgers this season, the most Haeger has had in one year in the Majors.

Haeger's first start came Monday against the Cardinals after he was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque, where he went 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA.

Haeger gave up three runs in seven strong innings in a 3-2 loss to St. Louis, and after the game, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said that Haeger definitely earned another start with that performance.

Torre wasn't the only person who thought Haeger pitched well on Monday. The knuckleballer said that he received about 40 congratulatory text messages after the game from friends and family.

Key for Haeger in his start against the Cardinals was that his knuckleball particularly was accurate. Sixty-one of his 80 pitches were strikes, and 78 of the 80 were knuckleballs.

"Anytime that I can consistently throw strikes with it, I'm going to keep throwing it," Haeger said. "I'm going to live and die by the knuckleball; that's what I do."

Haeger's ability to follow up Monday's performance with another effective outing could prolong his stay on the Dodgers' roster. Right now, Haeger's spot in the rotation is linked to Hiroki Kuroda's recovery from a mild concussion.

Kuroda currently is on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 16, but there's no telling how effective he'll be once he's available to pitch again.

Meanwhile, recently acquired Vicente Padilla is expected to be promoted Thursday to start against the Rockies.

Pitching matchup

CHC: LHP Ted Lilly (9-7, 3.42 ERA)

Lilly deserved better in his first start back from being on the disabled list. The lefty threw six scoreless innings against the Padres, giving up four hits and walking one. In his past 64 2/3 innings, Lilly has walked 10 and struck out 59. He hasn't gotten much support, going 2-6 when he gets three runs or less. He beat the Dodgers on May 29 at Wrigley, holding them to one run on four hits over seven innings. The good news is Lilly had no problems with his shoulder or knee and said he felt healthy.

LAD: RHP Charlie Haeger (0-1, 3.86 ERA)

Haeger pitched seven solid innings Monday night against the Cardinals and got the starting nod against the Cubs. Dodgers manager Joe Torre said after Monday's game that Haeger definitely earned another start after his effort.

Tidbits

The second annual ThinkCure! Radiotelewebethon kicked off with $143,887 being raised for cancer research by the end of Friday's game. ... Three Dodgers pitchers combined to limit the Cubs to a season-low one hit Friday. The last time the Dodgers one-hit an opponent was July 7, 2008, when Kuroda shut out the Braves, 3-0. ... Randy Wolf hit a two-run double Friday. With 11 RBIs on the season, the veteran southpaw tied his career high set in 2003 as a member of the Phillies.


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