Ausmus making gradual recovery
Veteran backup catcher hoping to return this season
BOSTON -- Brad Ausmus, the Dodgers' forgotten backup catcher out two months after back surgery, is gradually recovering in hopes of a return this year.
Ausmus still has lingering effects from the wedge of disk that was pressing on a nerve. He said the numbness in his foot is gone, but some weakness remains and his running has been limited to a slow jog.
Otherwise, he is resuming baseball activities, having caught his first bullpen session earlier this week and rejoined the offense in taking batting practice before games.
Ausmus, 41, also continues to participate in meetings that precede the first game of every series. In addition to separate meetings the Dodgers routinely hold for hitters and pitchers, Ausmus leads an earlier meeting with fellow catchers Russell Martin and A.J. Ellis, as well as reliever Jeff Weaver.
Ausmus utilizes a computer program that illustrates "hot" and "cold" pitch tendencies for each hitter and brings with him a personal databank from nearly two decades in the big leagues. Weaver brings a veteran pitcher's perspective to the meeting, Ausmus said.
Making room for Padilla, Monasterios on DL
BOSTON -- Needing to clear a roster spot for Vicente Padilla's return from the disabled list to start Saturday's game, the Dodgers got creative, placing Rule 5 rookie right-hander Carlos Monasterios on the 15-day disabled list.
Monasterios was the Dodgers' losing pitcher Friday night, when he made 72 pitches and allowed six runs in four-plus innings. After the game, he made no mention of an injury, but the club said he had a preexisting blood blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand and a split nail on the index finger that occurred Friday night.
After Friday night's loss, manager Joe Torre implied that Monasterios would probably lose his spot in the rotation and be returned to the bullpen, where he started the season effectively while being used judiciously. He started the season with only two games experience above the Class A level.
As a Rule 5 pick, the Dodgers cannot send Monasterios to the Minor Leagues without risking his loss to another club on waivers. He is 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA.
"He has to doctor it every time he goes out there," Torre said of the blister, which originally cropped up three weeks ago. "We'll take this opportunity to get it solved."
Monasterios allowed one home run when carefully used in 11 relief appearances covering 19 1/3 innings the first two months of this season. But in six starts covering 26 2/3 innings, he's been taken deep seven times, five of them in his past three starts. The eight homers allowed lead the staff.
"We're asking him to do a lot," said Torre. "He hasn't thrown consistently when he wanted to and this [the injury] could have something to do with it. And you come to this park, with the history it has, and you look around and it can be pretty intimidating."
Torre unsure of next weekend's rotation
BOSTON -- Don't ask Joe Torre who is starting against the Yankees next weekend. With the state of Torre's pitching staff, he's managing day-to-day.
As Vicente Padilla came off the disabled list Saturday, Carlos Monasterios went on, joining Chad Billingsley and deposed fifth starter Charlie Haeger.
"We're a little depleted," Torre said.
He said he will need to find someone to join Padilla, Clayton Kershaw, Hiroki Kuroda and rookie John Ely by Saturday at the latest. He said he might go with a tag-team of relievers. He didn't rule out calling up Claudio Vargas, who has made one three-inning start for Triple-A Albuquerque after being released by Milwaukee and signed by the Dodgers last week.
Vargas could be called up to pitch Wednesday, providing an extra day of rest for Ely, Padilla and Kuroda.
Billingsley isn't scheduled to come off the disabled list until next Sunday, and that is probably ambitious. He has been able to play catch since suffering a strained groin muscle, but won't test it off a mound until Tuesday or Wednesday.
"Even at that point, I hold my breath," said Torre. "In my experience, the groin is the toughest one to be comfortable with. They say they're fine, but when the game counts, there's a little bit more emotion involved.
"By Tuesday or Wednesday, we have to come up with a plan so we're covered for Saturday."
Torre said the decision also will be influenced by how Padilla comes out of his Saturday start.
McDonald, Elbert unavailable to pitch in
BOSTON -- The Dodgers' latest pitching injury -- a blister and cracked fingernail that put Carlos Monasterios on the 15-day disabled list Saturday -- would have created a good opportunity for James McDonald or Scott Elbert to ride to the rescue.
But McDonald is slowly recovering from a pulled hamstring suffered May 27 and Elbert is home, attending to a "personal family matter," according to the team. The matter has not been specified. Elbert's second child was born in April.
Assistant general manager DeJon Watson said Saturday he spoke to Elbert last week and plans to again Sunday. Watson apparently is the only Dodgers official to have spoken with Elbert, who was given permission to leave Triple-A Albuquerque June 10 to go home. Watson said there is no time frame for Elbert's return, but he expected him back some time this season.
"We want the player to be in the best frame of mind and we're doing everything possible to be supportive," said Watson.
Manager Joe Torre said he would leave a message for Elbert and implied that the former first-round pick's problem is at least in part emotional. Elbert had a one-game callup at the end of May, but walked three left-handed batters in Colorado and was sent back down.
"The kid needs time away," Torre said. "We've got to continue to stay in touch, let him know how important he is. I tell him every time I send him out, but that's now what you want to hear. He's dealing with the emotion and the reality of pitching. It's sad right now. He has Major League stuff and Major League heart for me. In '08, he was big-time for me. We added him to the League Championship Series roster last year.
"I'm not sure what the course of action is. I'm guessing. Nobody has been definitive about the thing other than the fact he left the club. Kenny [Howell, bullpen coach[ has texted him, but I don't think he's talked to him. We're all guessing from the things we're hearing. I think [the family] is included. I'm sure he hasn't done well professionally and it sort of magnifies everything else. This game is very tough when you're not totally focused."
Meanwhile, Watson said McDonald is throwing at about 85 percent. He is recovering at the club's Camelback Ranch-Glendale complex in Arizona and will start Tuesday in the Arizona Rookie League as part of his rehab.
Three more Draft picks sign
BOSTON -- The Dodgers on Saturday announced the signing of three more of their Draft picks -- eighth-round pick Michael Dean, a first baseman from LSU; 25th-round pick Jeremy Gilmore, a center fielder from Coastal Carolina University; and 34th-round pick Joe Lincoln, a catcher from Missouri Southern University.
Thirty-second-round selection, outfielder Devon Ethier, is in town this weekend to watch his older brother, Andre, face the Red Sox.
First-round pick Zach Lee remains unsigned and committed to play baseball and football at LSU, although Dodgers officials remain optimistic they can make an offer substantial enough to lure him away. If they are unable to sign Lee, they would receive the 29th overall pick in next year's Draft as compensation.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.