Offense keeps on ticking for Dodgers

If anything could partially offset the mounting concern about right-handed starter Chad Billingsley, it is the continued fine form of the Dodgers’ offense.

With Manny Ramirez back in the lineup, the Dodgers pounded out 13 hits in an 11-9 loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday.

They erased what was once a six-run deficit by scoring two runs in the sixth inning and four in the eighth, only to lose because of two runs given up by Ramon Troncoso late in the game.

“It shows the character of the team,” Matt Kemp said.

And the depth.

Kemp (.333), who tied the score with a three-run home run, his sixth long ball of the season, is one of five Dodgers batting .333 or better. The others are Ramirez (.382), Andre Ethier (.375), Rafael Furcal (.333) and Casey Blake (.333).

The Dodgers’ .306 average as a team leads the majors and the 79 runs scored ranked second to the 81by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Stars in the outfield

All-Star balloting begins today, opening the door for the Dodgers to do something that has been done by only one club.

As far as the Dodgers know, the 1979 Boston Red Sox are the only team to get its three outfielders voted into the All-Star game since the inception of fan balloting in 1970.

With Ramirez, Kemp and Ethier off to excellent starts, the Dodgers have a chance to duplicate the feat.

“They’ll certainly get some attention,” Manager Joe Torre said. “It’s pretty impressive what we’ve got with the two youngsters and Manny. They’re really the heart of the lineup at this time.”

Team spokesman Josh Rawitch said the Dodgers wouldn’t campaign on behalf of any specific players at the beginning, but might start doing so later in the voting process.

Belisario set to return

Ronald Belisario is scheduled to be activated Wednesday, Torre said. The Dodgers made room Tuesday night on the active roster for the hard-throwing right-hander by optioning Jon Link to triple-A Albuquerque.

Belisario, who got to camp five weeks late, has been working out at the Dodgers’ spring-training complex in Arizona.

Torre also said that the Dodgers were close to activating Hong-Chih Kuo from the 15-day disabled list and that the left-hander could be on the roster as early as Thursday.

Mixed emotions for Link

Link called Tuesday night “bittersweet,” as he talked about the highs of pitching two scoreless innings in his major league debut and the lows of learning he wouldn’t be accompanying the Dodgers on the next leg of their trip to his hometown of Washington, D.C.

One of the players acquired in the deal that sent Juan Pierre to the Chicago White Sox, Link spent three days in the major leagues in his first call-up. After the game Tuesday night, he was told by Torre that he was heading back to triple A.

Link said his wife, mother and aunts drove from Virginia to watch him pitch Tuesday.

Link, who spent the first five years of his life in Ohio, said he grew up a Reds fan and was delighted to pitch his first game against them.

“The Reds are the team I learned to love,” he said, recalling the Cincinnati teams of Eric Davis and Chris Sabo.