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Malone Has His Defenders on Signing of Perez

The Dodgers temporarily handled their two biggest problems the only way they could, optioning struggling pitcher Carlos Perez to triple-A Albuquerque and putting disgruntled second baseman Eric Young on the disabled list.

Of course, sending Perez to the minor leagues and removing Young from the active roster doesn’t solve anything. Privately, concerned Dodger officials acknowledge that Perez’s performance might be as good as it gets for him. That’s a scary thought for them because the left-hander is owed $12.6 million in the final two years of his contract.

Perez has become the top priority of Jim Benedict, minor league pitching coordinator, who is among those credited with Perez’s development while they worked together in the Montreal Expo organization.

Perez has struggled because of an unexplained decrease in velocity and poor pitch location. If Benedict puts Perez back on track, it might prove to be a big career boost for the aspiring major league pitching coach.

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General Manager Kevin Malone and Manager Davey Johnson aren’t expecting miracles, they simply hope Perez will become serviceable again. But Malone and Johnson are realistic.

At this point, they would be willing to trade Perez for a fringe prospect. Surprisingly, there isn’t a market for 2-10 pitchers with 7.43 earned-run averages and hefty multiyear contracts.

Malone has been ridiculed for giving Perez the three-year deal in the off-season. However, several industry sources said the contract was good for the Dodgers at the time based on Perez’s performance.

Then again, Malone didn’t have to give Perez a multiyear deal. Perez won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2000 season.

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“People have told me that was a good signing [when it occurred],” Malone said. “Obviously, Carlos has struggled, and that has been difficult for everyone, but we believe Carlos can get back on track.”

Malone also uses “happy talk” regarding Young, saying the leadoff batter remains in the Dodgers’ plans. But Malone has worked the phones in an attempt to trade Young, sources said, offering him to anyone who would listen during the last few days while Young’s relationship with Johnson deteriorated.

Although Young won’t comment on the situation, sources close to Young said his relationship with Johnson has been irreparably damaged. Young believes that Johnson treated him disrespectfully because he intimated to reporters that Young would be benched before informing him.

Young is owed $9 million under the final two years of his contract. Several sources said the Dodgers will have to swallow at least half of that to make Young more tradable.

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But there also are other high-priced players the Dodgers would like to dump. How much money are they prepared to spend to make more changes?

“You have to judge every situation on a case-by-case basis,” said team President Bob Graziano, not commenting specifically on the Dodgers’ plans. “It really depends on a lot of variables.”

And those variables will help determine whether Malone will have flexibility to maneuver in the off-season.

*

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It appears pitcher Robinson Checo is headed to the 15-day disabled list because of the groin injury he suffered in Wednesday’s 9-1 victory over Cincinnati, Johnson said.

The injury occurred while Checo (1-0) was pitching in the fifth inning. The right-hander completed the inning and earned the victory in his first Dodger start.

Checo pitched surprisingly well after he was recalled from Albuquerque on Wednesday to take Perez’s spot in the rotation. With a day off Monday, Johnson said he will employ a four-man rotation for now.

ON DECK

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* Opponent--Arizona Diamondbacks, three games.

* Site--Dodger Stadium.

* Tonight--7.

* TV--Channel 5 tonight, Channel 11 Saturday, Fox Sports West 2 Sunday.

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* Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330).

* Records--Dodgers 45-57, Diamondbacks 57-46.

* Record vs. Diamondbacks--5-5.

* Tickets--(323) 224-1-HIT.

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TONIGHT

DODGERS’ KEVIN BROWN (11-6, 3.59 ERA)

vs.

DIAMONDBACKS’ BRIAN ANDERSON (3-2, 6.26 ERA)

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* Update--Brown outdueled Randy Johnson in last Sunday’s 2-1 victory at Bank One Ballpark. Unfortunately for fans, Brown and Johnson are not scheduled to face each other this series. Johnson is scheduled to pitch against Ismael Valdes on Saturday.

* Saturday, 1 p.m.--Ismael Valdes (8-8, 3.33) vs. Randy Johnson (10-8, 2.65).

* Sunday, 1 p.m.--Chan Ho Park (6-8, 6.07) vs. undecided.


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