Kuo impressive in one-inning rehab stint
Lefty reliever closer to returning after tossing perfect frame
LOS ANGELES -- Injured reliever Hong-Chih Kuo might be returning to the Dodgers' beleaguered bullpen sooner than expected after an impressive one-inning rehab start for Class A Inland Empire on Thursday night.
Kuo struck out two in a perfect, 12-pitch inning, then went down to the bullpen to throw another eight pitches. He had been limited to only two innings in Spring Training because of chronic elbow problems.
Ronald Belisario, on the restricted list after reporting to Spring Training five weeks late because of visa problems, made his second game appearance at extended spring training Wednesday with a 12-pitch inning that club officials said was sharper than his first game Monday.
Both pitchers could be activated within the next week.
Ausmus has surgery to repair back
LOS ANGELES -- Back surgery on injured Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus Thursday went as expected, the club announced.
Ausmus had a herniated disk in his lower back repaired. He complained of pain down his leg and numbness in his foot after catching Thursday in Pittsburgh.
He is expected to be sidelined for three months and has been replaced on the roster by A.J. Ellis.
Weaver steps into Dodgers' short-relief role
LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Weaver has been a rare bullpen bright spot for the Dodgers, and he's done it in another new role. The one-time starter, who transformed himself into a long reliever last year, is reinvented again as a short reliever who appeared in six of the Dodgers' first seven games.
"I don't think, coming out of Spring Training, that I would ever be used like this, but that's what the beginning of the season is for," Weaver said. "You find out who fits each role. I see it as a new challenge, like long relief was last year. Another fun experience to see what you can bring to the table."
Weaver said he's adapted quickly.
"When you've been around awhile, you figure it out," he said. "The question is, how will my body respond to it? That might be why they've done it, to see. So far, so good. Since last year, my approach is to be ready for whatever role and make the adjustment and I'm satisfied so far."
Manager Joe Torre stayed away from using Weaver on Wednesday night, even though the game went 11 innings and every other reliever was used, plus starter Charlie Haeger in relief. But Weaver said he's healthy.
"I've always had a resilient arm," he said. "It's more a test of my lower back and hips. I just stretch a lot so things don't tighten up. Your arm, you're throwing every day anyway."
DeWitt not in Dodgers' starting lineup
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers second baseman Blake DeWitt did not start Thursday night against Arizona's Dan Haren, replaced by Jamey Carroll. Manager Joe Torre first explained that DeWitt is "struggling" with his swing and "fouling off pitches that he should be putting into play."
Torre, however, also conceded that DeWitt's lifetime numbers against Haren -- 0-for-10 with five strikeouts -- were more than a small factor in the decision."I only pay attention to stats if they get my attention," Torre said in Yogi Berra fashion.
Andre Ethier did remain in the lineup, although the ankle he sprained last week in Pittsburgh is still sore. Ethier pulled up a little gimpy Wednesday night after a sixth-inning single and hopped awkwardly while striking out in the 10th inning.
"Last night it looked doubtful for today," said Torre. "But I saw him at 3 o'clock and everything was fine. It was bothering him. I noticed when he pulled up at first one time. It's a situation where it doesn't damage him, it's a matter of comfort."
Torre reminds Billingsley of positive
LOS ANGELES -- What went wrong with Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley Wednesday night, when he allowed six runs in 5 2/3 innings?
"I don't know," said manager Joe Torre. "I thought he tried to overthrow when he got behind in the count."
Billingsley was looking to continue the improvement he showed last week, when he allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings in Pittsburgh. For the first three scoreless innings, he did. But five of the next 11 batters scored.
"We'll get through it," Torre said. "I just have to remind him. I like to remind the positive things. I'm not going to lie to him, but I'll tell him about what I saw in Pittsburgh. I've seen so much good in this kid, I've got to try to remind him what I think he needs to do."
Emergency pitcher nearly needed
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Joe Torre, who said he still hasn't found a candidate to be emergency catcher, could have been in position of needing an emergency pitcher if the Dodgers had tied Wednesday night's game in the 11th inning after pinch-hitting for Russ Ortiz.
James Loney, a high school pitching star nearly drafted as a pitcher, has volunteered for the umpteenth time."It would be pretty cool," Loney said. "It'll happen some day."
Torre said he would have used somebody, but still isn't sure who it would have been, sensitive to the risk of getting a regular position player injured, as happened to Jose Canseco.
"That would be the danger," Torre said.
A.J. Ellis offered himself as an alternative candidate and explained why.
"In '06 at Jacksonville, I caught 16 innings, pitched the last three innings and got the win," Ellis said after being prompted by teammate Blake DeWitt. "I gave up a run in the 17th, drove in the tying run in the bottom of the 17th and pitched two more scoreless innings."
Ellis said he pitched in high school. What does he throw?
"Strikes," he said. "I've caught position players pitching and they nibble. Just throw strikes. By that time in the game, everybody's too tired to hit anyway."
Groundskeeper explains delay
LOS ANGELES -- Head groundskeeper Eric Hansen explained the 10-minute delay Wednesday night to repair second base.
The base has a metal attachment that slides into a metal receptacle that is encased in a cement block to assure stability. But the cement block cracked, leaving the entire base unstable and turning sideways.
The grounds crew finally wedged tongue depressors to eliminate the slippage. After the game, the cement block and receptacle were replaced.
"I've never seen that happen," said Hansen.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.