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Bullpen Fails Valdes, Dodgers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Some rose as he walked off the mound, while others waited until he approached the top step of the dugout at Dodger Stadium.

But by the time Ismael Valdes reached his destination, they had come together to thank him.

After all, it may have been the fans’ final opportunity.

The pitcher received a standing ovation Sunday afternoon from a crowd of 41,306 when he was removed in the eighth inning of a 6-5 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

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Now, the clock starts for Valdes.

He is among the players the Dodgers are attempting to trade for Seattle Mariner pitcher Randy Johnson, and Valdes’ career in Los Angeles may have ended because of his strong effort against the Reds.

If Valdes is bound for Seattle as anticipated, possibly as soon as today, he said his Dodger Days closed on a heartwarming note.

“That . . . . that was very special for me,” Valdes said.

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“It was very nice, because the fans appreciated my effort. They know that I did my best, and that I always try to do my best for them and my team.”

Raul Mondesi staked him to a 4-0 lead with a one-out grand slam--his 14th home run--in the first. And after a shaky start, Valdes settled down.

He gave up eight hits, among them the first of Bret Boone’s pair of two-run homers. Valdes was charged with three runs in seven-plus innings, and struck out six with three walks.

Willie Greene’s leadoff single in the eighth chased the Dodger starter, who threw 115 pitches, 73 strikes. Valdes left with a 5-2 lead, but the bullpen faltered again.

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Boone was the first batter to face Antonio Osuna, who relieved Valdes, and he hit his second homer--and ninth of the season--to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-4. Closer Scott Radinsky (1-2) suffered his second blown save in three days--and his fourth of the season--when he gave up two runs in the ninth.

Dmitri Young knocked in the game-winner with a one-out, run-scoring double off the glove of first baseman Eric Karros.

The Reds won the last three games of the four-game series.

The Dodgers dropped two games under .500 at 27-29, and eight games behind the first-place San Diego Padres in the NL West.

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They were also eight games behind the Padres on May 15 when they completed the Mike Piazza trade, and they are 8-7 since the seven-player transaction. If they make another deal today, Valdes realizes he could be the next to go.

Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, and Seattle General Manager Woody Woodward did not speak to each other Sunday, sources said.

Woodward and Seattle Manager Lou Piniella will review the report on Valdes, from a Mariner scout who attended Sunday’s Dodger game, and Woodward and Claire will speak today. Dodger officials will meet early at the stadium to await word from Seattle.

Seattle wants first-year starting pitcher Darren Dreifort as the centerpiece in a package for Johnson, and the Dodgers have pushed Hideo Nomo.

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But sources said Nomo’s poor performance Saturday in a 7-3 loss to the Reds--in addition to his 2-7 record and 5.05 earned-run average--decreased his trade value in the Mariners’ view. Valdes is seen as the compromise choice, and his showing Sunday likely played a pivotal role in consummating a deal.

Although he has also struggled, Valdes is rated higher by Seattle because he is only 24, and Nomo will be 30 in August. Moreover, Valdes hasn’t experienced arm problems. Nomo underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching elbow in the off-season.

Once Nomo bombed in his tryout, the focus switched to Valdes.

“I won’t lie and say I wasn’t thinking about that today, because I was,” said Valdes, who lowered his ERA to 5.33.

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“I know what’s going on, and it’s not easy when you’re trying to do your job with all this happening. But part of being a professional is blocking out negative things and doing your job.”

Manager Bill Russell applauded Valdes’ effort.

“He’s a young player and he’s never been through anything like this before, so I would imagine it was tough on him,” Russell said. “But you can’t control anything that’s written or said. The only thing you can control is your performance on the mound. He did that.”

Valdes was typically accommodating. He repeated his comments as waves of reporters approached his clubhouse stall.

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When the last group finally left, he paused for a moment and reflected on the recent dizzying days.

And those that may soon follow.

“I’ve been here a long time,” said Valdes, who was signed at 17. “This is my organization. This is the only place I’ve known.”

After today, he may know another.

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