Weaver's return could send Ely to Minors
Veteran expected to remain in bullpen when activated
LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Weaver (0-1, 5.06 ERA) said he feels good after he allowed two runs in a three-inning rehab start for Class A Inland Empire on Tuesday, and he should be available for manager Joe Torre out of the bullpen Friday against the Rockies.
The operative word for Torre is "reliever" -- even with the Dodgers' fifth starter spot up in the air and Vicente Padilla on the disabled list through at least the end of the month.
Padilla has been temporarily replaced by John Ely, who makes his second career start in Thursday's finale against the Brewers. But Ely is a candidate for demotion to make room for Weaver after that start, which leaves no clear candidate to take over Padilla's spot in the rotation.
Weaver, a starter for the first 11 years of his career, made seven starts in 28 appearances for the Dodgers in 2009, but Torre said Weaver is more comfortable in the 'pen.
"For me to say at this point in time where our starters are right now, that nothing is a possibility, it'd be silly for me to do that," Torre said. "At this point in time, we're not thinking [Weaver could start]."
Torre said earlier this week that the team wouldn't consider carrying an additional pitcher, with 12 already on the roster. Even if Ely pitches well on Thursday, it may not be enough to keep him with the big league team, Torre said.
"If he goes out there and gives us a chance to win, we'll see what we see," Torre said. "We are up against the situation now -- with Weaver coming back, we're going to have to make a move. Even though he pitches well, he still could be one of the guys that won't be here. He knew that when he got here."
Kershaw's walks come with the territory
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw leads the league in walks issued, with 24 in 30 2/3 innings, after finishing third in the category last year, which is par for the course for a young power pitcher.
Here's the really sobering reality: get used to it. Sandy Koufax finished in the top five in the league in walks four of his first seven seasons.
At 22 years of age, Kershaw is averaging seven walks per nine innings this year and 4.9 per nine innings as a Major Leaguer. Koufax averaged 5.27 walks per nine innings until he turned 25, when he had roughly 100 Major League starts under his belt and things finally clicked. After that, he averaged 2.27 walks per nine innings.
If Kershaw is on the same timetable, he's looking at two more seasons of inconsistent command, stretches of brilliance undermined by inexperience that changes only with time.
Of course, more is expected sooner from Kershaw than was from Koufax. The Dodgers team that Koufax broke in with was the Boys of Summer -- Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Johnny Podres and Sal Maglie. Koufax was the fifth starter in a four-man rotation until finally earning the trust of manager Walt Alston. Kershaw is the No. 2 or 3 starter in a five-man rotation that has only three regular members.
"He's a tough kid, he doesn't dwell on negative stuff," said manager Joe Torre. "He'll figure it out."
For what it's worth, Kershaw has already hit three batters, tied for second in the league. Koufax never hit more than five batters in a season, and pelted only 18 in his career.
Haeger to make fifth start on Saturday
LOS ANGELES -- The Brewers' nine-run second inning Tuesday night might have helped at least one Dodgers pitcher.
Manager Joe Torre said Wednesday that Charlie Haeger (0-3, 6.56 ERA), the team's fifth starter out of Spring Training, will make his fifth start of the season on Saturday after he threw four innings of one-run ball in relief on Tuesday. After starter Clayton Kershaw managed just four outs, Haeger's outing let the Dodgers work their way back within striking distance, or at close to it, before losing, 11-6.
"That's what we were hoping would happen, have him hit one time and have him suck up some innings," Torre said. "The fact that he was able to throw a lot of strikes with [the knuckleball] last night -- and even when he wasn't throwing strikes, he was close -- hopefully, he'll carry that over to Saturday."
Torre never definitively said Haeger was no longer the team's fifth starter, after he lasted only four innings against the Mets in his third consecutive loss on April 27. But his previous scheduled start was skipped in favor of rookie reliever Carlos Monasterios, who allowed the Pirates just one run in four innings in a 5-1 Dodgers win on Saturday, and Torre talked about the value of having a knuckleballer in the bullpen.
Monasterios, who threw two innings Tuesday night and is not able to throw as many innings as Haeger, will remain in the bullpen on a "for-now" basis, Torre said. The Dodgers don't know yet who will fill the No. 5 starter's shoes next week.
"We looked at both [Monasterios and Haeger on Tuesday night], and we just decided," Torre said. "Haeger, he started the season as our No. 5, and last night was pretty much why we made that decision. At this point in time, we're not giving anybody any long-term guarantee. We're looking to see what we see, and decisions are made off of what we see."
Manny feels comfortable after rehab start
LOS ANGELES -- Three days away from his scheduled return to the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez took batting practice at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and will play left field Thursday for Class A Inland Empire in his second rehab start.
Ramirez, on the disabled list with a strained right calf, went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a strikeout as the designated hitter on Tuesday in his first rehab start. Ramirez's hit came on a fly ball that probably should have been caught, but manager Joe Torre said he's concerned only with Ramirez's comfort level at the plate.
"He feels fine, he's ready to come back here," Torre said. "The only thing I asked him about were his at-bats, the comfort part of it, which is what I need for him to feel like. He seems fine."
Ramirez will rest Friday as the Dodgers open a three-game series at home with the Rockies, but he should be available on Saturday.
Broxton could get work in non-save situations
LOS ANGELES -- Work is hard to come by for Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton lately, and he could get some soon -- whether the Dodgers have a slim lead late or not.
Broxton, who has allowed no runs and just five baserunners in 8 2/3 innings this season, has not pitched since last Friday in a 6-2 Dodgers win over the Pirates, a non-save situation.
Only two of Broxton's nine appearances this season were in save situations, the most recent of which, on April 24 at Washington, he couldn't protect.
"He's fine -- we'll get him out there if we feel that it's been long enough," said manager Joe Torre. "It's easier to do that at home, by the way."
Frankie Avalon to toss Friday's first pitch
LOS ANGELES -- Frankie Avalon, a teen idol before they had "American Idol," will throw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium on Friday before the Dodgers open a three-game series with the Rockies at 7:10 p.m. PT.
The first 20,000 fans at the game will receive a set of 1960s, Rat Pack-inspired posters featuring "Torre's Eleven" -- the Dodgers' coaching staff. Behind the scenes footage of the poster photo shoot can be viewed at www.dodgers.com/insidedodgertown.
The Tokens, best known for their 1961 single "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," will sing the national anthem, and in-game programming will be dedicated to music from that era.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.