Dodgers inquire about Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt

Reporting from Chicago -- The Dodgers have asked the Seattle Mariners about Cliff Lee and the Houston Astros about Roy Oswalt. The response from the Mariners and the Astros has been the same: We’re not about to trade our guy just yet, but we’ll get back to you if and when we do.

Even if the Dodgers were to agree to take on salary, the chances of a trade could depend on how deeply the Mariners and Astros wish to rebuild. The Dodgers’ top prospects are at the lower levels of the minor leagues, so the team would be an unlikely trade partner should the Mariners or Astros want a trade package to feature talent ready for the major leagues.

The Mariners might demand a more attractive prospect package because a half-season of Lee would come at $4.5 million. That would be one-fifth the cost of Oswalt, who is signed through 2011 — or one-ninth, if Oswalt asked the Dodgers to pick up a 2012 option in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause, for a total financial commitment of $39.5 million.

The Dodgers’ starting rotation includes four pitchers no older than 25: Clayton Kershaw (22), Chad Billingsley (25), John Ely (24) and Carlos Monasterios (24). Vicente Padilla is expected to replace Monasterios when he comes off the disabled list.

Manager Joe Torre, who hopes the Dodgers can acquire a top veteran pitcher, suggested the team would be better off if Kershaw at the top of the rotation were a luxury and not a necessity.

“This is what, his second full year?” Torre said Wednesday. “It’s really unfair to say, ‘He’s pitching for us and we’ll be fine.’ ”

General Manager Ned Colletti met with owner Frank McCourt in the Dodgers’ dugout before Tuesday’s game. Colletti would not discuss what players the Dodgers might be targeting but said he believes McCourt would consider adding salary on a case-by-case basis.

“I think it really depends on the deal,” Colletti said.

Ely’s homecoming

Ely, who was born and raised in the Chicago area, makes his first hometown major league start Thursday at Wrigley Field. He will have no emotional conflict, because he grew up a White Sox fan.

“I had no other choice,” he said. “My dad would have disowned me if I was a Cubs fan.”

Ely said he would leave 10 tickets for family and friends. He expects dozens more friends to attend, but the rookie cannot afford tickets for all of them.

“I need a couple more paychecks before I start giving out those kinds of tickets,” he said.

Ethier to rehab?

Torre said outfielder Andre Ethier, who is eligible for activation Sunday, would embark on a brief rehabilitation assignment. Ethier said he had discussed the plan with Torre but said he had no idea when or where the Dodgers wanted him to play.

“Whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do,” Ethier said.

“As soon as he tells me he’s ready,” Torre said.

Lima services

Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin will lead the Dodgers’ delegation to Jose Lima’s funeral, scheduled for Saturday in the Dominican Republic. Jarrin already was headed to the Dominican, for his Saturday night induction into the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Dodgers are planning a ceremony to honor Lima at a later date.

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