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NL Clubs Still Pursue Beltre

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Times Staff Writer

Some teams view third baseman Adrian Beltre as a backup option if they fail to acquire Mike Lowell of the Florida Marlins, National League executives said Sunday.

The Dodgers are among many clubs that have put Lowell, the Marlins’ productive third baseman, atop the list of players they plan to pursue before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline.

The Chicago Cubs and Arizona Diamondbacks also plan to aggressively pursue Lowell, and they have expressed interest in Beltre, who has played well on defense and has recently shown signs of emerging from a season-long slump. In his last seven games, Beltre is batting .423 with four runs batted in.

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Cub General Manager Jim Hendry was not interested in trading second base prospect Bobby Hill for Beltre in the off-season, but the executives said Hendry has instructed Cub scouts to keep close tabs on Beltre.

Gary Hughes, a senior member of the Cub front office, monitored Beltre during last week’s series against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. If the Dodgers, who are considering several moves to bolster their struggling offense, outbid the Cubs and others for Lowell, the market for Beltre might expand.

Having been down this road before, Beltre said he’s determined to stay focused on the field.

“Just like last year with all the stuff [trade speculation], I said I want to be here and that’s the same way now,” said Beltre, who was two for four and drove in a run in the Dodgers’ 4-3 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday.

“If I’m going to get traded, there’s nothing I can do about that. That’s just part of the game, so all I can do is just keep working hard to have a good season.”

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Catcher Todd Hundley, on the disabled list because of a back problem, was given permission to return to his off-season home in Chicago, Manager Jim Tracy said.

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Hundley is scheduled to rejoin the team Tuesday after handling personal matters. He plans to undergo back surgery if his condition does not improve soon, Tracy said.

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Infielder-outfielder Daryle Ward (right wrist tendinitis) is optimistic he can quickly contribute after being activated from the disabled list.

“You hear all the time about guys coming off the disabled list and get going real fast,” said Ward, batting .169 without a homer in 71 at-bats. “I’ve got to get myself healthy first, but it could happen.”

Ward will go on a rehabilitation assignment before being activated, the Dodgers said.

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Prospect Joe Thurston, anointed as the opening-day second baseman in spring training, is expendable because of the strong play of second baseman Alex Cora, and teams that plan to discuss potential deals with the Dodgers are interested in Thurston.

Through Saturday, Thurston was batting .286 with four home runs and 22 runs batted in for the Las Vegas 51s. He had no stolen bases in seven tries.

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