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Thurston’s Problems at the Plate Continue

Times Staff Writer

Rookie second baseman Joe Thurston continued to struggle Monday in a 6-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals at Rodger Dean Stadium.

Thurston was hitless in two at-bats and failed to get down a bunt in the fourth with runners on first and second and none out. Unacceptable, Manager Jim Tracy said.

“He has to be able to do that,” Tracy said. “He needs to be aware of that.”

The Dodgers have been supportive of Thurston -- selected their top minor leaguer in 2000 and 2002 -- with General Manager Dan Evans saying last week “we’re not as focused on [statistics] in the spring as we would be with some players” because they’re familiar with his ability and drive. However, Thurston is batting only .196 with a .272 on-base percentage.

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The Dodgers might lose a versatile veteran if Thurston is on the opening-day roster. Or is he headed back to triple-A Las Vegas?

“You have to ask yourself what that would accomplish, looking at the player from a developmental standpoint,” Tracy said. “I’m not going to get too far into this right now, but I will tell you that when a player gets 196 hits at any level, like this guy did last year [at Las Vegas], there’s more that you want to see.”

Thurston said his approach would not change.

“I feel like I’m doing things the right way, and showing them some of the things they want to see from me,” he said. “Yeah, I didn’t get the bunt down today, but I have a lot of other times.

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“I’m confident I’m going to be successful because of my work ethic. That’s how I’ve succeeded everywhere I’ve been, and that’s how I’m looking at this. I’m not on the team yet, I’m still trying to make the team.”

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On Sunday, Kazuhisa Ishii said the club informed him that he was the No. 4 starter. On Monday, Tracy said nothing was settled. Ishii, Darren Dreifort and Andy Ashby supposedly are competing for the final two rotation spots, but many in the organization believe Ashby is headed to the bullpen.

"[Ishii] was giving you his take on the situation,” Tracy told reporters.

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“It will come to fruition when I tell you guys in my office that here’s the last two starters in our rotation. He hasn’t been told by me, and I’ll just leave it at that.”

Dreifort (1-2) worked five strong innings Monday, giving up three hits and two unearned runs. He had two strikeouts without a walk, throwing 41 strikes in 59 pitches.

In 18 1/3 innings, Dreifort has 19 strikeouts, four walks and a 1.96 ERA.

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X-rays of third baseman Adrian Beltre’s swollen left foot were negative. Beltre fouled off a pitch from starter Wade Miller in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Houston Astros, hitting his ankle. Beltre, whose foot was heavily wrapped, said he would continue to receive ultrasound stimulus and apply ice to reduce swelling.... Eric Gagne, slowed because of a sprained lower back, pitched in consecutive games for the first time, working a scoreless inning against St. Louis. The All-Star closer gave up two hits and had two strikeouts. “My arm felt good and loose,” Gagne said. ... Left fielder Brian Jordan returned to the lineup after missing two games because of a left quadriceps injury.


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