“I’ll keep the same approach, just get on the bases and try to score runs,” said Pierre, echoing what Little says he wants Pierre to do. “I won’t do anything differently. I’ll take pitches when they need me to take pitches, and I’ll bunt when they need me to bunt.” One reason Pierre doesn’t draw a lot of walks is because he possesses such modest power. Thus, pitchers aren’t afraid to challenge him even when they fall behind in the count. Pierre will be called upon to execute hit-and-run plays with Furcal on base, but he says that won’t be a problem. “My swing looks like a hit-and-run swing every time anyway,” Pierre said. Little said he reserves the right to flip Furcal and Pierre if it becomes apparent during the season the alignment isn’t working. Getting attention: Right-hander D.J. Houlton, a long-shot candidate for the vacant fifth spot in the starting rotation, spent several minutes on a bullpen mound practicing his delivery without a ball in his hand. As he did so, he was surrounded by no fewer than five coaches, including Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and bullpen coach Dan Warthen. Also looking on were roving minor-league pitching instructor Marty Reed, Triple-A Las Vegas pitching coach Ken Howell and Double-A Jacksonville pitching coach Danny Darwin. “They spotted something in my mechanics during my last three (side sessions),” Houlton said. “Honeycutt actually told me about it last (spring), and we started to fix it, but I kind of went backward after that. They want me to stay a little more straight (toward the plate) in my stride, which should make my fastball tail away from right-handed hitters more.” Houlton spent all of 2005 in the majors because he was a Rule V pick from Houston. But last season the Dodgers sent him to Las Vegas, where he struggled and never was promoted. Another prospect: Shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr., the club’s second-round pick in the 2005 amateur draft, played second base for the first time in his pro career with Arecibo of the Puerto Rican Winter League. He wound up being named the circuit’s Rookie of the Year. “It was good for me to learn another position, just to show the Dodgers that I could do it,” DeJesus said. “Turning double plays was a little tougher for me just because it was so different from shortstop. But I got comfortable pretty quickly.” DeJesus spent last season at low Single-A Columbus, Ga., batting .277 with a .361 on-base percentage. He probably will play at high Single-A Inland Empire, the Dodgers’ new California League affiliate, in 2007. [email protected] (818) 713-3607 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “We feel this gives us a good opportunity to get something started in the first inning of every game and in every inning that those two guys come to the plate,” Little said. “If (Furcal) makes an out, we still have a chance to create some offense in that inning.” In other words, two leadoff men are better than one. VERO BEACH, Fla. – Shortstop Rafael Furcal will begin the regular season as the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, manager Grady Little said Thursday, with newly signed center fielder Juan Pierre batting immediately behind him. Little made the announcement after three months of speculation about where the two would be in the lineup. The leadoff spot had been muddled since November, when the Dodgers signed the speedy Pierre as a free agent to a five-year, $44 million contract. Furcal, who came to the Dodgers as a free agent a year earlier and signed a three-year, $39 million deal, hit .300 with a .369 on-base percentage last season and gave the Dodgers their first legitimate leadoff man in almost a decade. Pierre, like Furcal, had spent practically his entire career hitting leadoff. But while Pierre has enough speed to have at least 45 stolen bases in each of his six full seasons in the majors, his on-base percentage never has been as high as a leadoff man’s should be. The fact he is a contact hitter with little power who draws few walks made him the perfect guy for the No. 2 hole, at least to Little. And to Pierre.