LOS ANGELES -- Effectively choosing the future over the past, the Los Angeles Dodgers recalled highly touted pitching prospect Jon Link from Triple-A Albuquerque and designated veteran right-hander Russ Ortiz for assignment before Sunday's game with San Francisco.
The move also clears a 40-man roster spot, which is expected to be filled later this week when reliever Ronald Belisario is activated from the restricted list.
Ortiz's ouster wasn't a surprise, as it was widely assumed the Dodgers would designate him when they needed to clear a roster spot for Hong-Chih Kuo, the left-handed reliever who was scheduled to make a second one-inning rehabilitation start for high Single-A Inland Empire on Sunday against Modesto and probably will be activated before Tuesday night's game at Cincinnati. Ortiz had a 10.29 earned-run average in six appearances.
Link's callup was a bit of a surprise, though, especially considering he had been struggling with his mechanics at Albuquerque and had a 6.23 ERA in five relief appearances there. But Link, one of two minor league pitchers the Dodgers acquired from the Chicago White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade on Dec. 17, said he felt much better after pitching a scoreless, hitless inning against Omaha on Friday night.
"I was working on some stuff in the bullpen, and I asked [Albuquerque pitching coach Jim] Slaton if I could get an inning to try it in the game, and he said sure,'' Link said. "It was the ninth inning of a [lopsided] game. I got some work in, and saw some good results.''
Ortiz, 35, didn't completely rule out the possibility of accepting an assignment to Albuquerque if he clears waivers. But he didn't exactly rule it in, either.
"I don't have an answer to that,'' said Ortiz, who seemed at peace with the possibility of retirement when he wasn't sure if he was going to make the team out of spring training. "I'm not going to go down there just to be an extra arm. If it's for a specific purpose and I would have the opportunity to come back, then maybe. I'm not going to go there just to put on the uniform. I don't need to put on the uniform to be happy.''
The Dodgers have 10 days to trade Ortiz, release him or outright him to the minors. The 13-year veteran would have the option of rejecting an outright assignment, becoming a free agent and signing with another club, but it isn't clear if he would have any desire to do so or if there would be much of a market for him if he did.
Link, 26, said he was told of his promotion in a phone call from Albuquerque manager Tim Wallach on Saturday afternoon. Originally a 25th-round pick by San Diego in 2005, he will be making his major league debut. But he also understands that with Kuo and Belisario expected to be activated in the coming days, his first stint in the big leagues might be a short one.
"That comes with the territory of being with an organization that is deep in pitching,'' Link said. "It's a good opportunity for me to show what I can do when the games count and it's not just spring training. Every opportunity is a good one, and I will go out there and run with this one.''
Ramirez out again
Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez was out of the starting lineup for the second day in a row with tightness in his right calf, but he is expected to return on Tuesday night at Cincinnati. Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Ramirez was improving and that he was available to pinch hit in Sunday's game. ... Two of the Dodgers' left-handed hitters, first baseman James Loney and second baseman Blake DeWitt, also were out of the lineup against Giants lefty Barry Zito. Loney had one hit in 20 previous career at-bats against Zito, with six strikeouts. DeWitt was 1 for 5 against Zito with no strikeouts, but Torre said that decision was more about getting another right-handed hitter, Jamey Carroll, into the lineup against Zito.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.