What Will They Do With Juan?

With Manny Ramirez's expected return in 12 days away, the Dodgers have a pressing question to answer: whither Juan Pierre? Since Ramirez was suspended, Pierre has started all 41 games in left field. Although he hasn't come close to producing Ramirez-type numbers -- he has hit exactly one home run in his three seasons with the Dodgers -- Pierre has produced beyond what anyone expected.

After going 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles in in the final game of the Angels series, Pierre was batting .333 (59 for 177) with 13 doubles, 21 RBIs, 29 runs scored, 14 walks and 16 stolen bases in those 41 games.

Still, all indications remain that when Ramirez returns, Pierre will go back to the bench and hope for as much playing time as he can get. He probably will draw occasional starts in center when Matt Kemp needs a day off or when Andre Ethier needs a day off, with Kemp moving to right when Ethier isn't in the lineup.

Barring an injury to Ramirez, Kemp or Ethier, Pierre's only hope of continuing to play every day would be a trade to another club, something that isn't out of the question. Dodgers officials gave Pierre and his agent permission to pursue a trade last winter, but they found no teams interested.

And while it is conceivable that Pierre's recent performance might have created some interest where before there was none, it still seems highly unlikely given that Pierre still has two years and $18.5 million left on his contract after this season.

--LHP Eric Milton is eligible to return from the disabled list (back strain) at any time. Manager Joe Torre said Milton will be activated sometime this week and pitch either Friday or Saturday against Seattle, but Torre had yet to decide which of those days. Friday would be Clayton Kershaw's normal day, but Torre might give him an extra day of rest.

--3B Casey Blake made what might have been a critical error in the eighth inning, fielding a grounder that would have ended the inning but bouncing his throw past first baseman James Loney, allowing a run to score and the Angels to put runners on second and third. But after that inning ended without further damage, Blake offset the effect of his error by driving in an insurance run in the ninth on a high infield chopper that he easily beat out, allowing Juan Pierre to score from third with two outs. Blake went 2-for-4 and now has hit safely in 11 of his past 12 games.

---LHP Shawn Estes has retired. Estes actually pitched well in Triple-A, with a 3.07 ERA in hitter-friendly Alberqueque. His line with the Isotopes:

w-l  era  gm  gs  in  h  bb  so  whip
3-4  3.07  13  13  87  82  40  52  1.39
--Hiroki Kukroda allowed five runs and two homers to the A's but in his last two starts he's allowed nine earned runs in 11 2/3 innings and he's winless since an Opening Day victory, which includes an 0-3 mark in four starts since returning from nearly two months on the disabled list with a strained oblique. He touched 95 mph with his fastball, so health is not considered an issue.

--Manny Ramirez, who is scheduled to begin his rehab tonight in Albuquerque, is hitting better now than he was before the start of his 50-game suspension. According to Rob Flippo, whose regular job is to serve as bullpen catcher for the Dodgers, has spent some overtime throwing extra batting practice to Ramirez in his morning workouts at Dodger Stadium. "For me, he looks more like he did last year than he did at any time in Spring Training," said Flippo. "From Spring Training and right until he got suspended, he was still trying to find a rhythm. Even in April, he still looked like a hitter going through Spring Training games. He was still trying to get it to click."

BY THE NUMBERS: 218 -- At-bats by Dodgers catcher Russell Martin this season before the two-time All-Star finally connected for his first home run, a solo shot to left field off the Angels' Jered Weaver in the third inning on Saturday night in Anaheim. Martin reached double-figures in home runs in each of his first three seasons in the majors, including 10 in a rookie year in which he wasn't even called up until a month into the season.

"The main goal was for them to go to college and get an education, not to become major-league baseball players. For me, the greatest thrill was seeing them go to college." -- Dave Weaver, father of Dodgers pitcher Jeff and Angels pitcher Jered, to the Los Angeles Times before his sons faced each other in the 21st mound matchup of brothers in major-league history on Saturday night at Angel Stadium.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton recorded a four-out save, but it wasn't especially pretty. He walked the first batter he faced, loading the bases, before striking out Erick Aybar to finally end the eighth, then gave up two runs on three hits in the ninth before nailing down his 17th save. In two outings since missing several days with soreness in his right big toe, Broxton has allowed four runs on four hits in 2.1 innings.

--2B Orlando Hudson went 0-for-5 with a strikeout and four groundouts. That snapped his hitting streak at eight games. Hudson also limped out of the batter's box after hitting his seventh-inning grounder to short, but after being examined for several minutes by a trainer, he stayed in the game.

--1B James Loney hit his fourth home run, a disputed two-run shot in the eighth inning that gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Angels manager Mike Scioscia argued that the ball hit the top of the wall and bounced back onto the field, but after reviewing the televised replay, the umpires upheld the home-run call. All four of Loney's homers this season have come on the road, and Sunday night's shot off John Lackey was Loney's first against a right-hander.

--John-Ford Griffin was released at Albuquerque.

LHP Eric Milton (strained back) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. He is expected to be activated sometime before June 27.

RHP Jonathan Broxton (sore right big toe) was unavailable June 17-19. He returned to action June 20.

RHP Jason Schmidt (right shoulder surgery) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 30, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on June 16. He made the first of two rehab starts for Class A Inland Empire on May 12. He started for Class AAA Albuquerque on May 23, but he was shut down May 26 because of right shoulder irritation. He pitched a simulated game June 12, then threw in extended spring training June 17.

RHP Claudio Vargas (right elbow tendinitis) went on the 60-day disabled list retroactive to April 6. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on June 2.

LHP Will Ohman (sore left shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list May 29. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Inland Empire on June 16.

LHP Eric Stults (sprained left thumb) went on the 15-day disabled list May 31.

OF Xavier Paul (staph infection) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 21.

LHP Hong-Chih Kuo (left elbow strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 30. He resumed baseball activities in mid-May, and he threw a simulated game in late May.

INF Doug Mientkiewicz (dislocated right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list April 17, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on April 30. He had surgery April 20, and he is unlikely to return before September.

   LHP Randy Wolf
   RHP Chad Billingsley
   LHP Clayton Kershaw
   RHP Hiroki Kuroda
   RHP Jeff Weaver
   RHP Jonathan Broxton
   RHP Cory Wade
   RHP Guillermo Mota
   RHP Ronald Belisario
   RHP Ramon Troncoso
   LHP Brent Leach
   RHP James McDonald

   Russell Martin
   Brad Ausmus
   A.J. Ellis

   1B James Loney
   2B Orlando Hudson
   SS Rafael Furcal
   3B Casey Blake
   INF Juan Castro
   INF Mark Loretta

   LF Juan Pierre
   CF Matt Kemp
   RF Andre Ethier
   OF Mitch Jones

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