Izturis, Wunsch Begin Rehab Assignments

It hardly had what you would call a major league atmosphere. Not an extended camp game played on the back fields of Dodgertown with a total of three fans, some coaches, off duty pitchers and one curious reporter in evidence. Yet there was a bigtime presence, nonetheless, for both shortstop Cesar Izturis and pitcher Kelly Wunsch were making their first rehabilitation assignments.

In the game against the Mets, Wunsch pitched the opening inning while Izturis served as the designated hitter. The advantage of having them in such a contest is that rules are relaxed plus, since the games are unofficial, it doesn't count against rehab time.

Thus, Izturis led off for the Dodgers in each of the first four innings, then called it a day. He didn't have a hit yet his swing was fluid and he hit the ball sharply three of the four times with flies to the outfield. He grounded a two-hopper to second in the other trip to the plate. He then departed to ice his elbow, which was operated on by Dr. Frank Jobe, who performed Tommy John surgery last August.

"I feel good, "said Izturis afterwards. "I though I did okay. That's the first time I've played since last August. "

The plan is for Izturis to remain at Dodgertown for about a week, D.H'ing the whole time. He'll then travel to Las Vegas where he'll continue his rehab with the 51's.

"I expect to play in the field then, probably second base at the beginning because of the throws, " he says. "Then, I'll move to my regular position."

That, of course, would be short where he won a Gold Glove as the best fielder in the National League in 2004. Of course, the Dodgers signed Rafael Furcal over the winter and he currently occupies that spot in L.A. so there's been considerable conjecture about the possibility of Izturis playing elsewhere when he makes it back.

Of that, he believes, "We'll see about it when the time comes. Nobody's talking to me about a change now. "

Izturis expects his official rehab span in Las Vegas to be about two or three weeks.

Wunsch was the Dodger situational lefthander last season, holding left-handed hitters to a .194 average before going out with an ankle injury in July. That forced an operation to repair ligaments which cost him the rest of the season.

He subsequently had his left hip repaired after the season and was dropped from the Dodger roster over the winter. Signed to a minor league contract, he began his comeback in spring training as a non-roster invitee but had to shut down because of arm problems.

On Friday, though, his pitches were sharp, his velocity was good and his breaking pitches moved very well. Perhaps too well for he walked a couple of batters without giving up a hit in the one inning he spent on the hill.

"I was happy with my pitches," Wunsch declared. "Except for the walks I thought I threw the ball well."

Plans for Wunsch are, he believes, "to have one more start here, then go to Vegas."

There could be quite a crowd of rehabs at Vegas for Eric Gagne is also starting his comeback there.