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03/17/11 9:12 PM ET

Heilman making his case for rotation

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Aaron Heilman became the first Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher to go five innings Thursday against the Dodgers.

The right-hander, who is bidding for a spot in the rotation after spending the past five seasons as a reliever, allowed two runs on six hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out three.

Both of the runs came on a fourth-inning homer to left by Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp.

"I was able to make some adjustments from my last start and kept the ball down for the most part," Heilman said. "I hung a ball to Kemp, and he doesn't miss many of those. Arm felt good, body felt good. I feel like I'm right where I need to be."

D-backs manager Kirk Gibson has been impressed with the way Heilman has approached the competition. Heilman spent the winter working on his conditioning and stamina so that he would be able to pitch deep into games.

"I felt like I was settling in [after five innings]," Heilman said. "It felt like I could have kept going out there. I didn't feel tired, so I felt like the work I put in during the offseason has really helped and put me in a position to compete."

Heilman is battling with Armando Galarraga and Barry Enright for the final two spots in the starting rotation.

As a reliever, Heilman threw his fastball and changeup almost exclusively, but as a starter he'll need a third pitch for when he faces hitters multiple times in a game.

To that end, Heilman has worked a lot on his slider this spring, and he threw a bunch Thursday.

"Just one of those things you have to mix in," he said of the slider. "It's certainly not going to be my bread and butter, but it's another pitch to keep hitters guessing, keep them off-balance and keep them honest. That's the name of the game. You want to get them out with your best pitches, but be able to throw the slider for a strike, be able to bounce it when I need to and mainly just not get hurt with it and continue to pitch on fastball-changeup, which is what I've had my most success with."

Upton OK after being plunked in back

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The D-backs suffered a scare in the sixth inning Thursday, when Justin Upton was struck in the back by an attempted pickoff throw by the Dodgers' Jonathan Broxton.

Upton had doubled to lead off the sixth when Broxton tried to pick him off and wound up hitting him in the spine. Upton immediately went onto his stomach on the ground with his feet kicking the dirt.

"It hit me in the middle of my back," Upton said. "It stung, but I got back up so that's the good part."

Indeed, Upton even tried to steal not long after, but was thrown out at third.

"I was hoping he was thinking I wasn't going to steal because he hit me," Upton said. "But they remembered I can still run a little bit."

Upton will not be in the lineup Friday, but that was a scheduled off-day for him.

Hernandez thrilled to pitch against Dodgers

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- David Hernandez was all smiles Thursday after tossing an inning against the Dodgers.

It wasn't just that it was a scoreless inning, and it wasn't because of what his manager Kirk Gibson had to say afterward.

"I brought him right into the teeth of their lineup, and that's the best he's thrown," Gibson said. "He's been working pretty hard -- happy to see that."

What really gave Hernandez the biggest thrill was pitching against the Dodgers for the first time in his career. The Northern California native grew up a huge fan of the Dodgers thanks to the influence of his father, Richard.

"Basically, my whole family is Dodgers fans," Hernandez said. "I grew up watching them. That's why coming over here, being traded to the National League West, it's definitely been a blessing to be able to pitch against both teams. I grew up not liking the Giants, obviously, because I was a Dodgers fan."

The fact that Gibson hit that famous homer for the Dodgers in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series is something that is not lost on Hernandez.

"That's why [my dad] loves that Gibby is my manager," Hernandez said. "He got a chance to talk to Gibby and he was excited."

The D-backs go to Dodger Stadium for the first time May 13-15, and coincidentally, Hernandez's 26th birthday is May 13.

"I've already got family members planning a trip to Southern California for the games," he said.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @dbackswriter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.