- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 4, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Coming off a 90-win season and their first postseason appearance since the 1982 World Series, the Milwaukee Brewers now know what it takes to get to the next level. And they want to keep improving.

The Brewers earned a 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night to improve their spring record to 21-10.

Yovani Gallardo pitched five scoreless innings in his final tuneup for next week’s regular-season debut against Randy Johnson, Jason Kendall hit a two-run homer and Mike Cameron added a three-run double.

“It’s the experience of last year that’s important,” Kendall said. “Experience is something you can’t teach. I mean, it took me nine years to get to the postseason, and it’s everything you always thought it would be _ and more. Once you get the taste of it, you want to keep going. So that’s going to be a big driving force with us.”

Gallardo threw 82 pitches, allowing two singles and three walks while striking out three. He finished spring training with a 3-2 record and a 4.18 ERA.

Chad Billingsley, pitching for the first time in 11 days because of tightness in his groin, threw 76 pitches over five innings and allowed two runs and four hits while striking out five.

The right-hander, who lost two games in the NLCS to the Philadelphia Phillies, finished the spring 1-2 with a 5.51 ERA in six starts. His regular-season debut is scheduled for Wednesday at San Diego.

“Everything felt great,” Billingsley said. “It felt good to be out there after missing a week or two. I wanted to see how the groin felt. It felt good out there. I located my fastball well, and my off-speed stuff was great.”

Russell Martin hit a two-run homer in the seventh against David Riske after the Brewers built a 7-0 lead.

Kendall, who hit six home runs in 2,135 at-bats over the previous five seasons, hit his third of the spring in the fifth inning after a single by Bill Hall to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.

The Brewers increased the margin to 6-0 with four runs in the sixth. Two singles against Guillermo Mota and a walk to J.J. Hardy from Will Ohman set the stage for Cameron, who drove the first pitch by Tanyon Sturtze to left-center to clear the bases.

Cameron continued to third when shortstop Blake DeWitt mishandled center fielder Matt Kemp’s relay throw for an error, then scored on a bloop single to left field by Hall.

“The thing about this team is, these guys love to play the game and we have fun,” Kendall said. “It’s refreshing for older guys like guys like myself, Trevor Hoffman, Craig Counsell, Jeff Suppan and Braden Looper. It’s a game again. We go out every night and expect to win. These guys aren’t just satisfied being here. They want to get better.”

Hoffman, the career saves leader, will begin the season on the disabled list and force manager Ken Macha to use a closer-by-committee format. Ten different pitchers have recorded saves for Milwaukee this spring _ none of them Hoffman.

Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton, whose preparation for his first full season as a big league closer included a three-week stint with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic, retired one of the two batters he faced in the ninth _ with the help of a sensational play by second baseman Chin-lung Hu.

Broxton, who assumed the closer role last season because of an injury to Takashi Saito, converted 14 of 16 chances. In six appearances this spring with the Dodgers, he has allowed six earned runs in 5 2-3 innings. But manager Joe Torre isn’t concerned that the right-hander won’t get the job done.

“Knowing when you go out to the mound in the ninth inning that there’s nobody else back there is a lot different than pitching the eighth _ knowing that somebody can always come and get you,” Torre said. “That’s a responsibility, but you want to make sure that the guy doesn’t make more of it than it is. He still has to go out and pitch and get three outs.

“I had Mariano Rivera, and he struggled like the dickens that first year he was the closer in ‘97. But he turned into a pretty good one. So you’re going to go through that, and it’s just something you have to understand.”

Note:@ Brewers OF Tony Gwynn Jr., who was out of minor league options, cleared waivers and was sent to Triple-A Nashville after the game. “That’s not a strike against him (that he cleared waivers),” Macha said. “I think he’s got the talent to play in the big leagues. But at this point in time, teams are starting to get down to 25 players instead of adding anyone.”

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