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READY TO RETURN : Valenzuela Will Start Monday to Test Readiness for Playoffs

Times Staff Writer

Fernando Valenzuela, whose season was believed over after he was put on the disabled list July 31, will be the Dodgers’ starting pitcher Monday night at San Diego against the Padres in a test that may determine whether he will be included on the playoff roster, if the Dodgers win the West, as expected.

Valenzuela, who suffered a strained left shoulder, had thrown two simulated games in the past week and apparently felt strong enough to gauge his improvement in a game situation.

If Valenzuela pitches well and emerges from Monday night’s game without physical problems, there is a chance he would be on the Dodgers’ playoff roster, which must be set by Oct. 3.

It is doubtful that Valenzuela’s arm and shoulder will be strong enough for him to work as a starter, but he could be used as a left-handed reliever against the Mets, who have a lineup strong on left-handed hitters.

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Valenzuela could take the place of left-handed reliever Ricky Horton, who has been generally ineffective since being acquired from the Chicago White Sox Aug. 30. Before pitching 2 scoreless innings Saturday, Horton had given up 4 earned runs in 5 innings as a Dodger.

“That’s something I can’t answer,” said Manager Tom Lasorda, when asked if Monday night’s appearance is a prelude to returning for the playoffs. “He feels he’s ready to pitch. He’s a quality pitcher. Maybe he’ll be ready to do it.”

Said Valenzuela, 5-8 with a 4.39 earned-run average in 21 starts this season: “We had a meeting today, and Tommy said he knows I’ve been throwing the ball OK. I told him my arm feels strong. So, they’re going to try me in a game.”

Valenzuela said he will have a pitch limit in his start but declined to say the number. He also didn’t say whether he feels ready to pitch in the playoffs.

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“But my arm feels stronger than it has in a long time,” he said. “Right now, it feels much better than in the last two years.”


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