LOS ANGELES -- It's been slightly more than 10 weeks since Brad Ausmus underwent surgery to repair a herniated disk in his lower back, and the 41-year-old catcher is working his way back ahead of schedule."I know one thing, [team trainer Stan Conte] told me he's doing a lot more than he expected him to do at this point," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Sunday. "He's in the weight room every day, very strenuous program and he's been rebounding very well." Ausmus has been hitting since the Dodgers' last homestand and he practiced throwing to the bases this week. The most difficult thing for Ausmus at the moment is coming out of the crouch quickly to make fielding or throwing motions because his left leg is weaker. While receiving and hitting, Ausmus said he has no interference. "My swing hasn't felt good for decades," Ausmus joked of his reputation as a defensive catcher. "I feel a little soreness sometimes, but it feels pretty good." The benchmark Ausmus was given when he went in for surgery was 12 weeks until he could consider rehab games. "I'm just giving him to the All-Star Game, and we'll check," Torre said.
Kuo making case for All-Star nod
LOS ANGELES -- Lobbying for All-Stars isn't something manager Joe Torre likes to do often, but he thinks reliever Hong-Chih Kuo could be the exception."Kuo [as a setup man] would be the one nobody pays attention to," Torre said. "I may make a call on his behalf, I'm not sure if it would be frowned on because there's very little that's left on the manager [to choose] anymore. We just voted this weekend on the whole team." Left-handers are 0-for-25 with 12 strikeouts off Kuo, who recorded five outs for a hold Saturday in a 9-4 win over the Yankees after being brought in specifically to face a righty, Derek Jeter. Kuo struck out Jeter swinging. "You don't bring in too many left-handers to pitch to Derek Jeter," Torre said. Kuo, 2-1 with a 1.16 ERA, and closer Jonathan Broxton, 3-0 with 16 saves and a 0.83 ERA, have been almost equally as dominant, although Torre said he couldn't choose between the two for the All-Star Game. "I'll throw my hands up, say you can't make a bad choice," Torre said. "Brox has made it. To me, I always used to get a kick out of those guys making the club for the first time."
This year would be Kuo's first All-Star selection.
Manny starting to heat up
LOS ANGELES -- Manny Ramirez entered Sunday's finale with the Yankees at Dodger Stadium with a season-high eight-game hitting streak, during which he's raised his average to .313 -- the fifth-best mark in the National League.Ramirez is batting .400 during the length of the streak, which started when he returned to Fenway Park, and he has a team-high .347 average in June. Ramirez was 1-for-2 with an opposite-field double on Saturday in a 9-4 win over New York after he went 2-for-4 the previous two nights. Hitting to right field can be a positive sign for Ramirez, who struggled after coming back from a calf injury in May. "He has a tendency to get a little long or start a little too soon," manager Joe Torre said. "But I think the results have been good for him, the way he's gone about it. The balls down the right-field line, right-center field, that keeps you from starting too soon." The Yankees also walked Ramirez three times Saturday.
"The things he did to the Yankees all those years, they still resonate," Torre said.Ramirez almost pinch-hit for Ramirez with Reed Johnson on Saturday afternoon because Ramirez was experiencing back tightness, but Torre checked with Ramirez on Sunday and said the left fielder was fine.
Dodgers give Kemp a breather
LOS ANGELES -- Batting just .196 in June, Matt Kemp did not start on Sunday against the Yankees, a day after he showed some signs, if slight, of coming out of his funk. Kemp went 1-for-3 with an RBI double and two walks on Saturday in a 9-4 win, although he also struck out twice.Reed Johnson played in Kemp's place on Sunday, batting eighth. Dodgers manager Joe Torre didn't identify a mechanical or mental issue Kemp is battling, chalking Kemp's performance up to having played in all of the team's 74 games this season. Kemp is fourth in the National League with 86 strikeouts and has eight strikeouts in his last three games. Kemp's defense has also been of concern. "He's played pretty much every day, he's still young and he's still developing," Torre said. "He's unpredictable, let's put it that way. Any time he could jump on and hit a home run because of his tools. There are no rules on how consistent young players are going to be until they get enough time in." Ronnie Belliard also started on Sunday, in place of Blake DeWitt against left-hander Andy Pettitte. Belliard is batting .281 in 19 starts. Russell Martin has not homered since May 11 and is hitting .246 this month. He will get a day off likely on Wednesday, Torre said, in an afternoon game after a night game in San Francisco.
Billingsley coming off DL for Monday start
LOS ANGELES -- Manager Joe Torre said the Dodgers would make a player move after Sunday's game to activate Chad Billingsley from the disabled list in time to start Monday's game in San Francisco.Rookie Jon Link, recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque for the third time this season when Charlie Haeger was designated for assignment, is likely to be sent down to make room. Billingsley hasn't pitched since June 11 because of a strained right groin. "If it is Link, the fact that this experience [he's] having here, you take what you can get early in your career," Torre said. "Hopefully it gives you a chance to get comfortable when you come back for a more extensive stay." Billingsley 6-4 with a 4.34 ERA, 69 strikeouts and 27 walks in 13 starts.
Hollywood sees series through
LOS ANGELES -- Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore were shown on DodgerVision before the top of the second inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium, the third day the Yankees and Dodgers matchup has attracted the A list. Rita Wilson and Tom Hanks made an appearance on the big screen before the top of the fourth.Jack Nicholson, Tom Cruise and Zac Efron were set to take in Sunday evening's game. So were Josh Klinghoffer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Alyssa Milano, who were also slated to appear on Friday night. The cast of HBO's "Entourage" threw out the first pitch on Saturday after the Lakers' Pau Gasol stretched his arm out on Friday. Former Dodgers Ron Cey and Steve Garvey also made a guest appearance on the field.
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.