Kent returns to L.A. for MRI test

Times Staff Writer

PHOENIX -- Jeff Kent returned to Los Angeles on Saturday to undergo an MRI exam on his left knee, his future uncertain because of cartilage damage that has worsened over the last month.

Though the resulting pain forced Kent to make a premature exit Friday night and walk into the clubhouse with a noticeable limp, Manager Joe Torre was not ready to say the 40-year-old second baseman’s season and 17-year career are over, citing the future Hall of Famer’s character.

“Knowing him,” Torre said, “I can’t say that for sure.”

Kent told Times columnist T.J. Simers last month that this season would be his last with the Dodgers and that he was seriously considering retirement.


Friday night, Kent admitted to being worried about the severity of the injury, which he had played through for more than a month.

“I’ve got a lot of clicking and popping going in there right now,” said Kent, who has also battled back problems for most of the season.

Who’s on second?

Blake DeWitt started at second base Saturday and Torre said that if Kent’s season is over, the 23-year-old rookie would be first in line to get a shot at being the everyday player at the position.

DeWitt was the opening-day third baseman, the position he has played for most of his professional career. Mindful of Kent’s age, the Dodgers had DeWitt play frequently at second after they optioned him to triple-A Las Vegas at the end of last month.

“It’s just different,” DeWitt said. “The biggest difference is the angle.”

DeWitt turned an inning-ending double play in the first inning Saturday.

Other options include Casey Blake and Pablo Ozuna, who was designated for assignment but could be back on the team if Kent is moved to the 60-day disabled list to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Shortstop Ivan DeJesus Jr., who was batting .325 at double-A Jacksonville, has also played at second base recently.

Park in the pen

Chan Ho Park said he wants to be a starter again -- and he said that if he has to choose this winter between staying with the Dodgers as a reliever or signing elsewhere as a free agent to be a starter, he probably would move.


“Being a starter is more meaningful to the Korean fans,” he said.

But Park, 35, said he has no problem pitching out of the bullpen for the Dodgers, who gave him an opportunity to extend his career when he thought it might be over.

“I’m willing to sacrifice for this team,” he said.

Park called pitching out of the bullpen “a learning experience,” saying he feels more fatigued than he ever has at this stage of the season. His numbers reflect that. Over his last three outings, he has given up seven runs (six earned) in 2 1/3 innings, raising his earned-run average from 2.48 to 3.05.

Because he goes to the ballpark every day thinking he might pitch, Park said he has been unable to run and lift weights to stay in shape the way he was able to as a starter.

Though he said the psychological demands of relief pitching weigh on him, Park is happy these days. His wife is expected to give birth to their second child next month.

Short hops

Andruw Jones cut short his rehab assignment in Las Vegas to return to Los Angeles to get his surgically repaired knee examined by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. . . . Shortstop Chin-lung Hu, pitcher James McDonald and catcher A.J. Ellis are among the players the Dodgers are planning to call up from triple-A Las Vegas.