PHOENIX -- What Scott Elbert said he thought was outside the realm of possibility became reality Friday, when the Dodgers purchased his contract from double-A Jacksonville and called him up to the big leagues for the first time. Elbert replaced Clayton Kershaw, who was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas but will be back with the Dodgers in time to make his next start Tuesday.
Elbert, 23, who was the 17th overall pick of the 2004 draft, started the season in extended spring training recovering from major shoulder surgery he underwent in June 2007.
“I thought I was never going to get out,” Elbert said, recalling the numerous setbacks he suffered at the Dodgers’ facility in Vero Beach.
The highly touted left-hander’s move to Jacksonville on June 3 was accompanied by another move: one to the bullpen. Pitching in relief in 24 of his 25 games for Jacksonville, Elbert was 4-1 with a 2.40 earned-run average.
“I loved it, man,” Elbert said of the role that he was forced into to preserve his arm.
Assistant General Manager DeJon Watson said Elbert’s fastball was regularly clocked in the 90-92 mph range, only a couple of ticks slower than the 94 mph he used to reach before his surgery. Watson said Elbert could become a starter again in the future.
Elbert made his major league debut Friday, when Manager Joe Torre handed him the ball with the Dodgers trailing, 4-2, in the bottom of the sixth. He struck out two and walked one in two-thirds of an inning.
Elbert was one of the two high school players from Missouri drafted in the first round by the Dodgers. The other was Blake DeWitt, who had the same signing scout as Elbert, Mitch Webster.
Saito progressing slowly
Closer Takashi Saito threw off a mound for the first time since being put on the disabled list because of a sprained ligament in his right elbow, but he remains at least a couple of weeks away from pitching in a game. Saito made 15 pitches Friday.
Saito is expected to be moved to the 60-day disabled list to open a spot on the 40-man roster Monday, the day major league clubs can expand their rosters. If he is moved to the 60-day DL, he wouldn’t be eligible to be activated until the Dodgers’ off day Sept. 11.
Saito last pitched July 12 and still faces the possibility of season-ending elbow surgery.
Close to coming back
Andruw Jones and Scott Proctor, who are on rehab assignments with triple-A Las Vegas, are scheduled to be activated when rosters expand Monday, according to Torre. Delwyn Young could also be activated that day or on Tuesday.
Torre denied that Jones continues to experience irritation in his surgically repaired right knee, even though the center fielder started his fourth consecutive game at first base on Friday. Jones asked to be moved to first base after stepping into a hole in the outfield last week.
Proctor, who pitched two scoreless innings Friday, is on the 60-day DL and could replace Saito on the 40-man roster. Saito’s roster spot could also go to right-hander Tanyon Sturtze or utility infielder Pablo Ozuna, who were designated for assignment this week, or triple-A catcher A.J. Ellis.
Jason Schmidt made his third minor league rehab assignment by pitching a scoreless inning for Las Vegas. Said by Torre to be a “longshot” to pitch in the majors this year, Schmidt is scheduled to pitch next for Las Vegas on Monday.