Podsednik starts; Furcal bats 2nd

SAN DIEGO -- Less than 24 hours after being acquired from the Kansas City Royals, Scott Podsednik already is shaking things up for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was inserted into the leadoff spot against the San Diego Padres on Thursday.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he made the decision only after consulting with Rafael Furcal, who is mired in a 1-for-19 slump and was dropped to second in the order.

"I just talked to Raffy about it, and he had no problem with it," Torre said. "We'll try it this way. Podsednik is probably more comfortable hitting there, and having Raffy hit in front of [Andre] Ethier may help him get more pitches to hit. ... And I would probably rather have somebody run and steal in front of Raffy than in front of Ethier."

Podsednik started in center field on an afternoon when Matt Kemp was rested, but Podsednik probably will start in left most of the time until Manny Ramirez returns from the disabled list, which isn't expected to happen for a few weeks.

Podsednik arrived at Petco Park about three hours before game time and said he welcomed the trade to a club with a chance to win after spending the first four months of the season with the Royals, who are in last place in the American League Central.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," he said. "We're right in the middle of it here. It's a lot of fun being in the middle of a race. We're all playing to try to get to a World Series and ultimately win one. It just makes the games much more interesting and much more fun knowing you're close and you can come together as a team and accomplish something."

Podsednik, who found a limited free-agent market last winter, said the Dodgers expressed no interest in him at that time. But even in light of that, he said he wasn't terribly surprised that they suddenly became interested in him as Saturday's trading deadline approached.

"No, not really," he said. "Certain teams need certain pieces at different times due to injuries and a lot of other things. It's a crazy business. After spending eight years around the league, I'm not surprised by anything."

Taschner designated for assignment

To clear a roster spot for Podsednik, the Dodgers designated reliever Jack Taschner for assignment. Taschner, who had made three appearances and retired just one of the six batters he faced since his contract was purchased from Triple-A Albuquerque on July 21, said he wasn't sure what he would do if cleared waivers, at which point he would have the right to reject an outright assignment to the minor leagues and become a free agent.

The move brings the Dodgers back to a more conventional 12-man pitching staff after they had carried 13 for about a week.

Billingsley to start Saturday

Right-hander Chad Billingsley, who has pitched 15 shutout innings over his past two starts, will start on three days' rest at San Francisco on Saturday, when the Dodgers need a spot starter because Clayton Kershaw will be serving his five-game, league-imposed suspension.

Billingsley had approached Torre on Wednesday and volunteered to start on short rest, something he has never done in his five major league seasons.

"It keeps us from having to make a move," Torre said. "It helps. ... It's just a normal start. I think the only difference is what he does between the last one and this one. He only threw 84 pitches [on Tuesday night against the Padres]. Right now, in my mind, he is on top of his game. The first couple of innings may tell me a lot based on how much he has to spend and how he looks."

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.