Tot's Thoughts: Pierre, CC and Lowe

Outfielder Juan Pierre suffered a knee injury on June 29 against the Angels when shortstop Erick Aybar landed on his lower leg as he slid into second base on an attempted steal. The speedy Pierre was expected to miss six to eight weeks but here he is after three months, testing the knee at Las Vegas.

He was 2-for-2 in the game, doubling in the first inning and walking in the second before adding another single in the fourth. He scored twice, including in the fourth when he dashed home from second base on a single to center field.

After the game he said he would probably be ready to rejoin the Dodgers after a couple more games. That would mean he could rejoin the Dodgers on Saturday.

"If he picks up 10 or 12 at-bats and his legs and knees are feeling good, I don't anticipate him being here much longer than that," 51s manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "Hopefully he gets through these three days healthy and he can get back up there and help our major league club."

Pierre is healing like a teenager and is well ahead of schedule after posting .277 with a team-best 35 stolen bases in 73 games this season with Los Angeles.

Pierre, who signed a $44 million contract with the Dodgers before last season, has drawn the ire of many fans -- apparently because he is not what they thought he would be.

What he is, however, is a 31-year-old, exceptionally fast outfielder who played in all 162 games last year, hit .293 and led the team with 96 runs scored, 196 hits and 64 steals.

What he is not is an outstanding fielder, nor does he have a strong throwing arm. Whether he is worth $11 million a year is beside the point. He is just what the Dodgers thought he would be when they signed him, nothing more, nothing less.

General Manager Ned Colletti signed Pierre after J.D. Drew opted out of his Dodgers contract for an even bigger one with the Red Sox, leaving a hole in the club's outfield.

He has had four 200-hit seasons, just missing his fifth last year, and a .300 career batting average. He started the year with a 434 consecutive games streak, the longest in baseball.

When manager Joe Torre ended the streak on Opening Day, benching in favor of an outfield of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones, Pierre was a consummate professional, not complaining or creating any sort of disturbance.

How refreshing.

And the fans have turned their attention to the struggling Andruw Jones, voicing their displeasure as his average hovers around the .160 level.

Obviously, he isn't what the fans though he would be either.

Like a good novel, the plot will thicken when Pierre completes his rehab and returns to L.A. Will the Dodgers use the $44 million man (Pierre) or the $36 million man (Jones) or will they use both of them and set young Andre Ethier who has been developing at a steady rate?

Starters Struggling
Rumors have flashed around the Dodgers most of the season, predicting that they will trade one or more of their wonderkinders for an established starting pitcher.

Long-time Dodgers observer George Hewitt, reported that his daughter, attending a party, met CC Sabathia's sister who insisted that CC was very interested in playing for the Dodgers (he is building a home in the Los Angeles area).

Sabathia just tossed a complete-game shutout over the Cardinals, going the distance for the third time in four starts with Milwaukee. He's 4-0 with a 1.36 ERA since coming over from Cleveland, which makes him 10-5 with a 1.97 ERA and 140-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 128.1 innings spread over 18 starts since beginning the season with four rough outings.

It will be interesting to see if Milwaukee will shower him with enough money to keep him in the beer capital or if he will, indeed, opt to join a West Coast team. And will the Dodgers pop for the $100-million-plus needed to nail him down if he is interested?

But up until the all-star break, starting pitching, in fact pitching of all kinds, was the club's strength. They went into the break with an ERA of under 4.00, not so good at one time in major league baseball, but a fine number in today's world.

The Dodgers are a week removed from the All-Star break and they're still waiting for their first quality start of the second half of the season.

Poised to start a series with the Washington Nationals Friday night, Dodgers' starters are a combined 0-3 with an 8.77 ERA since the break and are averaging just over four innings per start.

The six-game trip that ended in two straight losses in the Colorado shooting gallery called Coors Field, saw three rookie starters, Stults, Kershaw and Kuroda, baffled by both the attitude needed and the altitude.

Oddly enough, the one starter who worked in a winning game hard against the Rocky Mountains, Eric Stults, was the one sent back to Las Vegas to develop a "more aggressive" demeanor.

Kuroda told the Los Angeles Times that the ballpark's reputation had an impact on him. He didn't throw many sliders in the first three innings and when he did, he usually missed the strike zone.

Perhaps the the All-Star break had some effect on the pitchers, who are as fine-tuned and as finicky as a race horse.

Derek Lowe gave up four runs in 5.1 innings at Arizona but the Dodgers took a pair of games from the Diamondbacks whose starters are struggling as much as the Dodgers.

And now comes the report from the New York Post that the Yankees are shadowing the Dodgers, looking at Lowe who is, the story says, being offered in trade, perhaps a] because he is eligible for free agency after the season and has expressed a desire to return to Boston and b] because the Dodgers have regularly shorted him run support during his time with Los Angeles.

If he is being shopped around, that means that Brad Penny is close to being healthy and could be slotted back in the Dodgers rotation soon.

However, Torre said he expected that Penny would have to pitch twice in the minors, meaning he could be back in the rotation in the first week of August. The question is, will the Dodgers still be in the mix by then if they are without both Lowe and Penny?
br> "Even without him, we have experienced quality arms, but Brad can be a huge lift for us," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "So we need him healthy and throwing well. If we can get him back for 10, 11 starts, it could be huge."

Will the Dodgers use Jones or Pierre, or both at the expense of Ethier? Will the Dodgers swap Lowe for the shortstop/third baseman they have been looking for? Will Frank McCourt consider spending the necessary bucks to land a knockout pitcher like Sabathia?

Stay tuned for the next chapter of "As the Dodgers Turn."

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