Nakamura once agreed with Mets

Updated: February 3, 2005, 7:43 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers pitcher Darren Dreifort is scheduled to have shoulder surgery Feb. 15, his fourth operation of the offseason.

Heading into the final season of a $55 million, five-year contract, Dreifort had surgery on his left knee Jan. 6. He had hip surgery in September, and an operation on his right knee in October.

Darren Dreifort
Relief Pitcher
Los Angeles Dodgers
60 1 4 1 63 4.44

"He recovered well from each of the first two surgeries, but it's hard to predict exactly how long it's going to take -- especially with the upcoming surgery," general manager Paul DePodesta said Thursday. "So I think he still has a long road in front of him."

Dreifort, a right-hander who turns 33 on May 3, has made 26 starts and 60 relief appearances in the first four seasons of his contract, totaling 205 2/3 innings. He missed the 1995 and 2002 seasons after elbow ligament replacement operations.

"We knew going into the offseason that he was probably going to have four procedures. They had to stagger them because he obviously couldn't have all of them back-to-back," DePodesta said Thursday at a news conference to announce the signing of third baseman Norihiro Nakamura to a minor league contract.

Nakamura, an eight-time All-Star in Japan, was presented a Dodgers No. 66 jersey by DePodesta -- the number the player wore as a rookie with Kintetsu in 1992.

"As far as me playing in the major leagues, there is no guarantee of that as of right now, so I would like to be able to prove what I can do," Nakamura said through a translator. "My main goal is to be on the opening day roster and, hopefully, be the starting third baseman for the Dodgers."

Nakamura, 31, had a career .263 average during his 13 seasons in Japan's Pacific League, hitting 307 home runs and driving in 916 runs. He spent time working out with the Dodgers last year during their spring camp at Vero Beach, Fla.

In the battle to replace Adrian Beltre, Nakamura is competing with Jose Valentin, who hit 30 homers last season for the Chicago White Sox.

"Certainly, we signed Jose Valentin with the idea that he would play third base, and I certainly still expect him to be on this club and be the leading contender," DePodesta said. "But that being said, the more guys we can bring in to give us even greater protection and greater competition, the better off we are. I think Nakamura's an above-average third baseman, but I think he can make the transition to first if need be."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press