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Beltre Sidelined by Ankle Injury

Times Staff Writer

Third baseman Adrian Beltre might be sidelined for the remainder of spring training after suffering a left ankle injury Sunday in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros at Holman Stadium.

Beltre fouled off a pitch from starter Wade Miller in the second inning, hitting his ankle and causing significant swelling. He limped noticeably in the field before leaving for treatment in the fourth, receiving ultrasound and ice therapy.

“It hurts a lot,” he said. “It’s pretty swollen.”

Beltre, whose ankle was wrapped, said he expected to sit out at least “a couple of days,” but the cautious Dodgers are especially concerned about ankle injuries. The club usually has players undergo X-rays if swelling does not decrease after 24 hours.

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The four-year veteran has been outstanding in Grapefruit League play, batting .333 with two home runs and eight runs batted in. Moreover, Beltre has only two strikeouts in 39 at-bats, using a more compact swing than last season on the advice of batting coach Jack Clark.

With six exhibition games remaining, Beltre believes he has enough time to heal before opening day March 31 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark. The Dodgers certainly hope so.

“Belly is a really big part of what we’re trying to accomplish,” said All-Star right fielder Shawn Green. “You can tell from his approach that he’s made adjustments this spring, and we’re going to need him.”

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Kazuhisa Ishii confirmed what most at Dodgertown have known since the beginning of spring: he’s the club’s fourth starter.

Hideo Nomo, Odalis Perez and Kevin Brown have been announced as the first three members of the rotation, and the Dodgers maintain that Ishii, Darren Dreifort and Andy Ashby are competing for the final two spots.

However, Ishii, a starter throughout an All-Star career in Japan, has been told he’s back in the group after going 14-10 with a 4.27 earned-run average as a rookie.

The left-hander, following an individual workout program this spring, pitched in a game for the first time since March 12. Ishii worked four scoreless innings in relief of Brown, giving up two hits, walking four and striking out three.

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Considering Ishii’s command problems, Manager Jim Tracy and pitching coach Jim Colborn were pleased with his 72-pitch, 37-strike effort.

“Well, he’s not Odalis Perez,” Colborn said. “This is OK. He’s very competitive and much more consistent than he was last year. He did it by design and that was his goal, so I’m real pleased.”

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Todd Hundley has allayed concerns about his defense, meaning the Dodgers probably won’t have three catchers on the opening-day roster.

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The club considered carrying David Ross in addition to Hundley and starter Paul Lo Duca, but Ross is expected to start the season at triple-A Las Vegas.

“Am I saying that it’s absolutely out of the question, that I won’t go with three catchers? I won’t say it in that manner,” Tracy said. “But I will in the same breath tell you that I’m leaning more strongly toward two.”

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Brown (1-1) gave up three hits and two runs (one earned) in five innings. He had seven strikeouts without a walk.... Closer Eric Gagne, getting in some work, pitched in a minor league game for the second time, striking out one in an inning.... Pitcher Wilson Alvarez said he’s not interested in a minor league assignment if he doesn’t make the team.

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