Notes: One last hurrah for Alvarez
Oft-injured southpaw will retire following this season
WASHINGTON -- After missing two games to sort out his future, pitcher Wilson Alvarez rejoined the Dodgers on Thursday for what he said will be one last run at the postseason, then he will retire and forfeit his $2 million guaranteed salary for 2006.
"I'm going to try and enjoy the last two months," said Alvarez, who added that he has been thinking all season about retiring. "I want to try to finish the season, then that will be it. I don't want to do it, but my arm is pushing me. I told them I won't be coming back to pitch in 2006."
Alvarez, who already has been disabled twice this year, said he needs surgery to repair frayed labrum in his well-worn left shoulder, which was operated on in 2000, and that he would rather retire than endure the rehabilitation. He said he told assistant general manager Kim Ng that he would like to be a coach or instructor.
After allowing a game-losing home run to Jim Edmonds on Sunday, Alvarez met with general manager Paul DePodesta and manager Jim Tracy, and said he wanted to retire immediately.
"I was feeling kinda down, and with the injuries, I haven't done the job lately," Alvarez said.
Alvarez was told to take some time and think it through before deciding. Instead of flying to Washington with the ballclub, he mulled over options with his family.
"It wasn't just one day, a guy hits a home run," he said. "It's something I've been thinking about a while. For me, every day in '05, I don't know if my shoulder bothers me or it doesn't. It's like it's time to let it go and give somebody else a chance."
He said he decided to return because the postseason is within reach.
"This team can win a division," he said. "We just need to do it together. I talked to my family and we agree that that's what I'm going to do. I can't complain about it. My arm gave me 14 years. It's time. No more surgery. I prefer to spend time with my kids, and one day I would like to coach if a spot is open."
Alvarez, 35, has earned $48.9 million in his career, $35 million of it coming from Tampa Bay for a five-year free agent contract, during which he was limited to 17 wins due to shoulder woes. After pitching effectively as a swingman for two seasons in Los Angeles, he signed a two-year, $4 million contract last winter.
"It's not about the money, it's about winning," he said. "That's the way I've been raised. I feel better to win than to make money."
The club had hoped Alvarez would be durable enough to take over as the situational left-hander for Kelly Wunsch, who required season-ending ankle surgery last month. But left-handers are batting .370 against Alvarez.
"Right now, it's better to be the long man," he said. "I'm not effective now to come in and face a guy or two. I feel better going down there, pitching two or three innings, then taking a couple days off. Strength-wise, I'm fine. But something's pinching in my shoulder right before I let go of the ball. So I try to find a release point that doesn't bother me. It's better when it gets a couple days' rest."
Alvarez said the pinching and release point have impacted his command, which has cut into his effectiveness. He has a 5.73 ERA.
Tracy said that with Alvarez becoming a long man again, Elmer Dessens would pitch later in games. In fact, opposing left-handed batters are hitting .250 against Dessens, making him the most effective Dodgers reliever other than closer Yhency Brazoban against lefties.
Phillips out: Jason Phillips missed Thursday's game with a badly bruised left hand that was hit by a pitch Wednesday night. The hand was swollen on top, where a Tony Armas pitch hit it, and on the palm, where it was pinched against the knob of the bat. Phillips said he would probably have X-rays taken Friday in Pittsburgh. Tracy said Phillips could catch in an emergency. The Dodgers are exposed with rookie Dioner Navarro the new starter and Phillips having moved to first base.
In a real emergency, Mike Edwards would volunteer, though he hasn't caught a game since the Instructional League two years ago.
"I've been talking to [bullpen coach] Jon Debus about it," said Edwards. "With both guys playing, it could happen. I've caught bullpens, but it's not quite the same when you've got guys swinging bats in front of you and foul tips hitting you."
With Phillips out, Jeff Kent moved over to first base and Antonio Perez started at second. Ricky Ledee replaced Jason Repko in the outfield.
From one end of the spectrum: Some of the traveling party took a tour of the White House on Thursday, but most of the players attended a union meeting at the club's Pentagon City hotel. Not surprisingly, the primary topic of discussion was steroids.
Coming up: Derek Lowe (7-11, 3.99 ERA) will open the Dodgers' series in Pittsburgh on Friday night, saying the thumb blister that rendered him ineffective last weekend against St. Louis is significantly improved. Lowe develops a blister by tucking the thumb under the baseball and against the seams when he throws his sinker. Righty Josh Fogg (5-6, 4.91 ERA) will start for the Pirates.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.