Alvarez Takes Ashby’s Spot in Rotation

Times Staff Writer

With Kazuhisa Ishii scheduled to rejoin the rotation this weekend, the Dodgers on Wednesday demoted Andy Ashby to the bullpen and promoted Wilson Alvarez to a full-time starter.

Through an interpreter, Ishii, sidelined since Aug. 2 because of a sprained ligament in his left knee, said he briefly experienced knee pain while facing batters during Wednesday’s two-inning, 46-pitch session.

However, Manager Jim Tracy and pitching coach Jim Colborn are satisfied that the left-hander is ready to pitch Saturday against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium, pushing Ashby back to long relief.


Tracy said it’s all about performance now as the Dodgers pursue the National League wild-card berth, and Alvarez has simply outperformed Ashby.

“He’s not real happy about it, and you’d expect any player to feel that way,” Tracy said. “But the way that Wilson Alvarez has thrown the ball, he’s made a strong case for himself.

“I understand the feelings of the player.... For him to not like it is understandable, but the decision right now, by what has taken place between the lines, is that Wilson Alvarez deserves to have the baseball. He’s going to get it.”

At a salary of $725,000, Alvarez has been among the club’s best bargains, performing well as a reliever and spot starter. The 33-year-old left-hander, who sat out most of the 2000 and 2001 seasons while recovering from shoulder surgery, is 2-1 with a save and a 2.36 earned-run average in 14 appearances, including five starts.

In his last three starts, Alvarez is 1-0 with an ERA of 0.45. He has given up 11 hits and has 20 strikeouts with two walks.

“I’m throwing it 86, 88 [mph], but I’m throwing it by people, and I can’t explain it,” said Alvarez, twice a 15-game winner with the Chicago White Sox in the 1990s.

“The main thing is location. If I throw over the plate, it’s not going to work.”

Ashby is 3-10 with a 5.27 ERA in 19 appearances (12 starts). In last Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the New York Mets, the 36-year-old right-hander gave up 11 hits and four earned runs in six innings. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning against the Astros on Wednesday.

“It’s not nothing shocking, so the hell with it,” said Ashby, who has a salary of $8 million in the final year of a three-year, $22.5-million contract.

“I’m not going to worry about it. Easy to handle? Whatever, it don’t matter. I’m going to do what they want me to do and go on. I’m not saying anything about it.”


Although closer Eric Gagne appreciates that Tracy is promoting him for the NL Cy Young Award, Gagne believes Atlanta closer John Smoltz is more deserving.

“It would be nice if I get it, but Smoltz deserves it more than I do,” he said. “He has more saves [44 to 43], and he’s on a [division-leading] team that’s going to make the playoffs. If we make the playoffs, maybe [he will win].

“It’s an honor to me just to be mentioned, but I really don’t worry about it. I just want to make the playoffs.”

Smoltz went on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday.


Fred McGriff, sidelined most of the season because of his first two stints on the disabled list, was out of the lineup because of soreness in his groin, Tracy said.... Outfielder Jeromy Burnitz returned to the lineup after sitting out four consecutive games because of a strained right groin. He went hitless in four at-bats.... General Manager Dan Evans is considering adding a reliever and left-handed-batting bench player before the Aug. 31 roster-set deadline. He has discussed options internally, but there hasn’t been a lot of excitement about the available players, a Dodger official said.