LOS ANGELES -- As Manny Ramirez's slump continues, Dodgers manager Joe Torre concedes that "I don't think he's gotten his swagger back" after a disappointing 2009 that included a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy."I think the suspension hurt him a lot. It embarrassed him," Torre said of Ramirez, who is hitting .273, 40 points below his career average. "When he came back, he worked, but he was more serious minded. He didn't like the way he played after. He put a lot of pressure on himself, his balance was not the same. He's a little bit different guy this year -- line drives to right-center, left-center." Torre predicted during the spring that Ramirez, who turned 38 earlier this week, would be less of a power hitter -- he has only four homers in 36 games (he hit 17 in 53 games for the Dodgers in 2008) -- but would still be productive. Ramirez's RBI ratio of one every 4.4 at-bats is equal to his career mark. "His lack of home runs doesn't concern me," said Torre. "He's a run producer, and at the end of the year, that will still be part of his resume." Torre didn't dispute that Ramirez's defense has diminished this year. "He is what he is," he said, explaining that the automatic day game off following a night game is designed to rest Ramirez's legs, while suggesting that some of Ramirez's defensive problems result from the outfielder "maybe trying to take care of himself." Torre also rejected speculation that Ramirez would find a way to skip the Dodgers' trip to Boston later this month. "I think he'll show up," Torre said. "This man was part of their first championship in 2004. You can't necessarily ignore that stuff. The people of Boston are very fond of Manny."
Lindblom removed from Triple-A rotation
LOS ANGELES -- Don't look for Josh Lindblom to be the Dodgers' next fifth-starter candidate.Management has pulled the plug on that experiment. Lindblom was deactivated from Triple-A Albuquerque this week, sent to the organization's Camelback Ranch-Glendale training complex to regroup, and when he returns, it will be as a reliever. Lindblom was a closer at Purdue before the Dodgers selected him in the second round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. He was a dominant starter during his first professional season and made a brief run at a Major League staff spot during Spring Training in 2009. He split last season between starting in Double-A and relieving in Triple-A. Exclusively as a starter at Albuquerque this season, Lindblom has a 7.06 ERA, with 80 hits allowed in 51 innings.
Hobbled Blake eyes swift return
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake missed his second game and underwent an MRI exam on his sore lower back on Friday, but he believes the injury is relatively minor."No, I'm not worried," said Blake. "I think it will be a couple of days. Either it'll be a lot better in 48 to 72 hours, or it might be a lot slower. We should know a lot in the next day or so." Blake said he had not yet received results of the MRI, but doctors were encouraged that he had no leg symptoms, which often is a sign of a disk problem. "But it's also something you can't really play through, because it can get worse," he said. Blake said he felt a grabbing after fielding a ground ball and preparing to throw during infield drills before Thursday night's game. He said he's never had a serious back injury. Meanwhile, reliever Jeff Weaver said he was taken out of Thursday night's game after warming up on the mound because the skin had separated beneath the corner of his middle fingernail while warming up on Wednesday and Dodgers manager Joe Torre didn't like the way Weaver was warming up. "It's something I could pitch with, but it's very tender and kind of burns a bit when I throw," said Weaver. "I was fine, but obviously they didn't like what they saw in warmups. I feel I can deal with things other people can't. I had no problems going out there throwing. If I have a chance to not pick up a ball, it's something that will heal quickly."
Padilla on track for June 18 return
LOS ANGELES -- Injured Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla said he's on track for a return to the Dodgers' rotation on June 18, the opener of the Interleague series in Boston against the Red Sox.Padilla, on the disabled list since April 23 with an inflamed radial nerve, made his first Minor League rehab start on Thursday night for Class A Inland Empire and threw three scoreless innings, striking out five while allowing only a single to the first batter. The day after making 38 pitches, he said his arm felt fine with no recurring discomfort in the area that sent him to the sidelines. "Everything is good," Padilla said. "No pain. I just want to feel secure when I get back to the big leagues." Padilla will likely make one more rehab start for Inland Empire on Tuesday, then one for Triple-A Albuquerque five days later. With no setbacks, that would set him up to start in Boston. Also, George Sherrill, who followed Padilla with two strikeouts and a perfect inning on Thursday night, will move on for two more appearances with Triple-A Albuquerque. Meanwhile, rookie Carlos Monasterios was able to play catch with no ill effects from the finger blister that cut short his Wednesday start after five scoreless innings. He is scheduled to throw his between-starts bullpen session on Saturday. Manager Joe Torre said Monasterios is expected to make his next scheduled start on Monday.
Torre's Game On Dude ready for Belmont
LOS ANGELES -- Game On Dude, a thoroughbred part-owned by Dodgers manager Joe Torre, is 10-1 on the morning line for Saturday's $1 million Belmont Stakes in New York.Torre, an avid racehorse owner, never had a starter in a Triple Crown race until this year, but Game On Dude will be his second in five weeks. Homeboykris, a gelding part-owned by the Dodgers manager, went off at odds of 27-1 in the Kentucky Derby last month -- and ran like it -- finishing 16th of 20 but fulfilling Torre's dream of having a starter in the Run for the Roses. Game On Dude comes into this race off a victory May 9 in the Lone Star Derby outside of Dallas. It was Game On Dude's second win in five starts and, notes Torre, he is bred to go the Belmont's taxing 1 1/2-mile marathon distance. The Dodgers will be preparing to play a night game with Atlanta at Dodger Stadium when the Belmont Stakes is run and Torre will watch the race from his office television, as he did the Kentucky Derby. Game On Dude is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. "Distance shouldn't be an issue, and they say he's on top of his game, so we'll see how good the top of his game is," said Torre.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.