LOS ANGELES -- Seventeen Major League seasons.
Sixteen team changes.
Zero postseason appearances.
"I guarantee this probably means more to me than to anybody on this team," reliever Jamey Wright said of the current stretch run for the Dodgers. "The time is now. I've had too many dreams of pitching in the playoffs for it not to happen. I'm pretty confident it will."
The 37-year-old Wright made this Dodgers club on a Minor League contract, management expecting him to be the long man for blowouts, to take over for an injured starter and to be a seasoned mentor to an otherwise-young bullpen.
But Saturday night he was setting up interim closer Brandon League with a perfect eighth inning, following up two perfect innings in his previous outing in Colorado. Nine up, nine down.
"When the game is on the line, I seem to pitch my best," he said. "You can't be afraid to lose. I've been a hero, I've been a goat plenty of times. But I'm going to compete, to give my best and if I'm not good enough, the scoreboard will show it."
While the Dodgers as a group have struggled for an identity after a radical roster makeover, Wright is in his best form of the season.
"We've added a lot of pieces and we're trying to jell, to get an identity," he said. "We've scuffled, had some tough games. You hope the talent takes over and we can go on a run."
The closest Wright got to a postseason was in 2002, when he was traded at the end of August from Milwaukee to the Cardinals after injuries to starting pitchers Matt Morris and Woody Williams. Wright went 2-0 in September, but when Morris and Williams returned, Wright was left off the playoff roster. He accompanied the team, but it wasn't the same.
"It was bittersweet," he said. "I wouldn't consider it going to the playoffs. I couldn't go in the dugout or the bullpen. I just worked out in case somebody got hurt. It doesn't count."
With injuries to Kenley Jansen and Scott Elbert, Wright has worked his way toward the back end of the game.
"The way we're using him is out of necessity, but he's earned more and more later innings," said manager Don Mattingly. "You've got a guy with a lot of experience and he's not afraid. We have to find somebody for the later innings and he's been pretty good."
Abreu returns from Minors to help off bench
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers selected the contract of Bobby Abreu from Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday, one month after designating the veteran for assignment. In a corresponding move, right-handed pitcher Chris Withrow was recalled from from Double-A Chattanooga and placed on the 60-day disabled list.
Abreu, 38, batted .251 with 17 RBIs and 26 runs in 70 games with the Dodgers earlier this season after being signed at the beginning of May. He started the season with the Angels, but he was released after appearing in just eight games.
The veteran split time in left field with Juan Rivera earlier this season, but became expendable with the addition of Shane Victorino. He stuck around with the organization and remained hopeful he would return in September once rosters were expanded.
"I like it here," said Abreu, who added he would like to play for about three more years. "I have a good time and they treat me good. I understood the situation with Victorino. They had to open up a spot for him. It was a trade. There was no problem."
Manager Don Mattingly said Abreu gives the Dodgers an experienced bat off the bench, which should be valuable over the final month of the season.
"Sometimes I'll have to start the inning, so I just find a way to be on base," Abreu said. "The situation of the game will dictate my approach at the plate."
The left fielder made a short stint with the Isotopes after being hampered by a minor ankle injury. Not guaranteed he would be asked to rejoin the Dodgers, Abreu got the call Saturday night and arrived at Dodger Stadium before Sunday's game.
"You always take your chances," he said. "Go back to Triple-A for a while, keep playing and having at-bats. You just wait for the time they could call you back."
Lasorda offers Jansen words of encouragement
LOS ANGELES -- Heart patient Kenley Jansen received a pep talk Sunday morning from heart patient Tom Lasorda.
"It's amazing to have a legendary person pick you up," said the Dodgers closer, sidelined for the second time in as many seasons with an irregular heartbeat. "It's motivating."
And instructive. Lasorda, forced to retire as manager after suffering a 1996 heart attack, had a pacemaker installed two years ago for a similar irregular heartbeat (which he showed Jansen during his clubhouse visit). Lasorda also suffered a second heart attack at this year's First-Year Player Draft in June.
"He's been through this. He told me not to worry about it. Worrying doesn't make it better. And when the good Lord calls you up, you don't have time to pack. Just don't be scared and live your life.
"It's just frustrating for me because I want to help the guys. But the doctor said I might have had this from birth and it just came out. I just have to listen to Tommy. He motivates me so I don't feel down for myself."
Jansen will see a heart specialist Tuesday to determine whether treatment will allow him to return to the mound this season. He's currently on blood thinners and is not allowed to work out with the club because, if he were accidentally hit by a ball, he could be more seriously injured because of the medication.
Manager Don Mattingly said there is a chance that starter Chad Billingsley could have another platelet-rich plasma injection, but he still isn't sure yet whether the righty could return this season. He added Billingsley, who is on the disabled list with a sore elbow, felt better Sunday and he was optimistic.