Dodgers sign utilityman Ozuna
Torre says veteran's versatility is 'safety net' at three positions
PHOENIX -- Having expanded their deadline search to include a third baseman and with manager Joe Torre saying he expects the club to be "active" in the coming 10 days, the Dodgers' announcement Sunday was admittedly only an incremental upgrade.
They signed utilityman Pablo Ozuna, who was released by the Chicago White Sox three days earlier. He'll replace rookie utilityman Luis Maza, who was designated for assignment with a .228 batting average.
Ozuna, 34 next month, was hitting .281 in 34 games with the White Sox, his fourth organization. He has played all positions in the infield and outfield, but mostly third base, with his outfield play primarily in left field. He'll need to focus on second base to spell Jeff Kent in the late innings, which has been Maza's primary role recently.
Ozuna said all the right things about playing anywhere asked, in keeping with his reputation for being one of the most popular players in the White Sox clubhouse. The Dodgers will pay the pro-rated minimum salary, with the White Sox picking up the remainder of his $1.05 million salary this year and the $200,000 buyout of his salary next year.
"He hasn't played a lot of second base, but he looks in good shape," Torre said of Ozuna. "He's got foot speed. He gives us an upgrade, experience-wise. A little more athleticism. He's a safety net at three positions. We have a chance to do other stuff. Right now, it's just a switch. We still have to make a decision on a pitcher or player for [Mark Sweeney]. He's ready."
Sweeney, who has struggled as the left-handed pinch-hitter, was eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, but management seems to be delaying that decision in lieu of another possible acquisition.
"I know Ned [Colletti, general manager] is on the phone, trying to make our club better," Torre said. "Chances are, we'll be active. Having said that, we're trying."
Colletti said Saturday that the shortage of` available shortstop candidates to replace the injured Rafael Furcal prompted him to expand the search to include a run-producing third baseman before the July 31 trade deadline.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.