Smoltz, Padilla could be future alternatives
With Chad Billingsley questionable for his next start Wednesday in San Francisco and with the Dodgers unsettled on a permanent fifth starter, Manager Joe Torre said Sunday the team continues to look outside the organization for help.
“They’re looking,” Torre said of the front office. “We talked about the waiver wire. There is a possibility that something can happen.”
Among the possibilities is right-hander Vicente Padilla, a former All-Star who the Rangers designated for assignment Friday despite an 8-6 record in 18 starts.
The Rangers said the decision to part ways with Padilla, who won at least 14 games in two of the last four seasons, was the culmination of several factors, including the fact the pitcher was often late or absent from meetings and other team events. He also angered teammates by throwing at opposing hitters, leading to Rangers batters being hit in retaliation.
Torre said he doesn’t think a player with Padilla’s reputation would cause problems in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.
“When you have a solid group of people, stuff like that doesn’t bother me,” he said.
Another possibility, given Torre’s affinity for battle-tested veterans, is right-hander John Smoltz, who the Red Sox designated for assignment Saturday.
Billingsley, who came out of his last two starts early with cramps in his left hamstring, rode a stationary bike then threw off flat ground Sunday morning and is scheduled to throw off a mound in San Francisco today.
“We’ll see where Bills is [today] and we’ll make a plan from there,” Torre said. “If we’re going to need a starter, we’ll get a starter.”
Doug Mientkiewicz left for Albuquerque on Sunday to start the second phase of a minor-league rehabilitation assignment with the Dodgers’ triple-A affiliate.
Mientkiewicz, who underwent shoulder surgery in April, will play seven games with Albuquerque starting today. Still unable to throw, he is scheduled to be the Isotopes’ designated hitter.
Mientkiewicz, 35, says he has abandoned hopes of returning this month and is targeting a comeback in September, when rosters expand.
When roster spots are no longer at the premium they are now, he said he can help the team as a pinch-hitter and he won’t have to be able to throw because the extra bodies on the bench will lessen Torre’s need to double-switch.
But Mientkiewicz will need to play the field if he hopes to be on the postseason roster, should the Dodgers get that far.
“For me, it’s more October than September,” said Mientkiewicz, who was on the field Sunday morning with his wife, Jodi, and their 3-year-old son Steel. But whatever happens this fall, Mientkiewicz said he would like to play for the Dodgers again next season.
“I would love a chance to come back and get a mulligan,” he said. “Then again, if we win a World Series, I might not come back.”
Manny Ramirez, who had gone hitless in his two previous games, striking out 17 times in his last 13 starts, had his first three-hit game Sunday since July 12. And all three hits went to the right-field side of second base. “He’s trying to fight the ball off and use more of the field,” Torre said. “When he takes that big swing he gets real long and comes off the ball. As he starts feeling more comfortable, I think he’ll work his way around.” . . . To create a roster spot for Eric Stults, the Dodgers optioned infielder Tony Abreu back to triple A.
Times staff writer Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.
AT SAN FRANCISCO
Where: AT&T; Park.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio -- 790, 930.
Probable pitchers: Hiroki Kuroda vs. Jonathan Sanchez; Tuesday, 7:15 p.m. -- Randy Wolf (5-6, 3.55) vs. Joe Martinez (2-0, 5.87); Wednesday, 12:45 p.m. -- TBA vs. Tim Lincecum (12-3, 2.20).
Update: The three games in San Francisco are a comparison in contrasts. The Dodgers have the best-hitting team in the National League while the Giants’ pitching staff leads the majors in earned-run average. While the Dodgers have been scuffling, losing 10 of their last 15, the Giants have been surging, winning nine of 13 to trim 4 1/2 games off their deficit in the NL West. But this series could mark the start of a turnaround for the Dodgers, who have the best intra-division record in baseball and play 22 of their next 32 games in the West. Kuroda, pitching with an extra day of rest, has made quality starts in his last three outings, with the Dodgers winning each time. Sanchez has won his last two starts, shutting Houston out on four hits over seven innings in his last game.
-- Kevin Baxter