Luis Cruz is designated for assignment by Dodgers

There was no fairy tale for Luis Cruz this year, only frustration.

Unable to break out of his season-long slump, Cruz was dropped from the Dodgers' roster Friday, as the team designated him for assignment. The third baseman's place on the roster went to outfielder Scott Van Slyke, who was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list.

Cruz hit .127 with one home run and six runs batted in in 45 games. He couldn't recapture the magic of last season, when he went from being a career minor leaguer to batting .297 in 45 games with the Dodgers.

"Louie just got caught in a box this year," Manager Don Mattingly said. "He struggled early. Trying to get him at-bats after that got tougher."

Cruz started at third base on opening day, but eventually lost his position to a resurgent Juan Uribe. Once serenaded by the crowd with calls of, "Cruuuuuz," he was suddenly the target of boos.

But Mattingly said, "It's not necessarily the end of the road for Louie here."

The Dodgers have 10 days to waive, trade or release Cruz. If he isn't claimed on waivers by another team or traded, he could accept an assignment with the Dodgers on their triple-A affiliate. If Cruz fails to land with another major league team, he is undecided whether he would remain with the Dodgers as a minor leaguer or elect to become a free agent, according to his agent.

"The No. 1 wish for anybody that you designate is that they go to the big leagues," Mattingly said. "I'd rather see him in the big leagues than anywhere. If he doesn't end up in the big leagues with someone, then you hope he ends up in Albuquerque, where he'll have a chance to get some swings."

Crawford nears return

Carl Crawford could return from the disabled list as early as July 5 when the Dodgers open a three-game series in San Francisco.

Crawford has been on the disabled list with a strained left hamstring since June 2. He was batting .301 when he was injured.

Crawford is scheduled to start a four-game minor league rehab assignment Sunday with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga as a designated hitter, according to Mattingly. Ted Lilly, who is sidelined because of a strained neck, is supposed to pitch in that game.

Crawford is expected to play in left field Monday and Tuesday. He will be the designated hitter again Wednesday.

If he comes out of the four-game assignment without any problems, he will rest Thursday and rejoin the Dodgers for the start of their series against the Giants on Friday.

When Crawford returns, the Dodgers will have four players sharing playing time in three outfield positions: Crawford, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.

As for Lilly, Mattingly was noncommittal when asked whether he would rejoin the rotation when healthy. Lilly said he expects to throw around 80 pitches Sunday.

Short hops

Van Slyke will provide the Dodgers with a power bat off the bench and could start against left-handed pitchers, Mattingly said. Van Slyke went on the disabled list June 11 with left shoulder inflammation. … Adrian Gonzalez will make an appearance at the Viva Los Dodgers festivities Sunday. The event will start at 11 a.m. in parking lot 6.

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