Dodgers still search for power
PHILADELPHIA -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' effort to add a power hitter before the Aug. 31 deadline by trading for a player who has cleared waivers has been essentially narrowed to two players who also are being pursued by a handful of other clubs: first baseman Adam Dunn of the Washington Nationals, whom the Dodgers presumably would move back to his natural position of left field, and outfielder Jose Guillen, who was designated for assignment last week by the Kansas City Royals.
That information came from a major league source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Dunn, who has cleared waivers according to the source, has a little less than $4 million remaining on his two-year, $20 million contract. But the Nationals surely would want a package of valued prospects in return, and the Dodgers already have traded away five of those in the past two weeks to acquire Scott Podsednik, Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot and Octavio Dotel.
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Dunn told ESPNLosAngeles.com during the Nationals' visit to Dodger Stadium last week that his preference is to remain in Washington. If the Dodgers were to acquire him, there is a good chance it would be nothing more than a rental for the rest of the season, because Dunn is eligible for free agency in the fall.
Guillen is a player with a checkered past who was suspended for the final week of the 2004 season and that year's playoffs by the Los Angeles Angels following an on-field blowup with manager Mike Scioscia. But he also has 211 homers in 14 seasons and can play either of the corner outfield spots. Guillen, who is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract, is owed roughly the same amount as Dunn for the rest of the season.
The tricky part with Guillen is whether to wait until he clears waivers -- it isn't clear whether that has happened yet -- and the Royals release him, at which point he becomes a free agent and any club that signs him would have to pay him only a prorated share of the major league minimum salary for the rest of the season (a little more than $100,000), with the Royals on the hook for the rest. That would risk the possibility of another team trading for him. If Guillen clears waivers, the Royals can trade him to any team. If he doesn't, they can trade him only to the team that secures a waiver claim on him.
Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal didn't return to the starting lineup on Tuesday night against the Philadelphia Phillies and probably won't do so until at least Thursday. But Furcal did report improvement in his injured back even before taking ground balls for the first time during batting practice, and he was available for the first time since leaving an Aug. 2 game against the San Diego Padres with tightness.
"It's much better," Furcal said. "This was one of the better days."
The Dodgers played a man short for the past week while trying to avoid losing Furcal to the disabled list, and it appears that decision paid off. But Furcal cautioned against assuming that the worst is behind him because back injuries tend to be unpredictable.
"I always want to take it fast, but I want to be healthy for the future," he said. "When you have back problems, people don't realize how bad it is. One time, you might feel 100 percent, and that is when you get hurt. Other days, you feel a little bad, so you have to go stretch it, and that might end up being one of the best days you have."
Ramirez on schedule
Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez experienced improvement in his right calf, trainer Stan Conte said, enough that he won't need an MRI exam for now. But Conte added that Ramirez, who has been on the disabled list since July 20 and is rehabilitating at the team's spring-training complex in Glendale, Ariz., isn't ready to start a minor league rehab assignment.
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"Not in the next 24-48 hours," Conte said. "He has to be able to run."
Conte said Ramirez is able to run, but that the medical staff wants to minimize any risk of aggravating the injury by holding Ramirez back from running for now.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said reliever Ronald Belisario, who was activated on Tuesday after more than a month on the restricted list for reasons that still haven't been made public, initially will be used in an earlier role than the one he occupied before he left. That is due mostly to the trading-deadline acquisition of veteran Octavio Dotel to add to the tandem of Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton at the back end.
"I think now, because of the help we have at the end of the game, he won't be a long man, but I think he'll probably be a sixth- or seventh-inning guy," Torre said. "It'll be something significant. But the fact we have a number of guys who can pitch the eighth inning or the seventh inning ... I don't see him pitching the eighth or the ninth."
Torre said he wouldn't ask Belisario to address the team in the wake of his absence, during which he was clearly missed as the Dodgers went 12-17.
"I don't think the team felt he deserted them," Torre said. "There was more concern when he left than there was anger. There was no anger. If anybody has any issues with him, they can all go up individually and talk to him. I don't sense any need for any closure."
Kemp sits to catch breath
Center fielder Matt Kemp was out of the starting lineup after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts on Sunday against the Nationals. Kemp is 6-for-29 in August, with five of those hits coming in one game.
"It's just a day off, nothing more than that, to catch his breath," Torre said. "I see no patience whatsoever at the plate. It looks like he is reaching for a lot of stuff, and when you get behind, the strike zone expands. He just doesn't have any patience right now."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.