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Houston's Role Has Diminished

September 03, 2002|Mike DiGiovanna

PHOENIX — Tyler Houston expected to play a prominent role with the Dodgers when he was acquired from Milwaukee in late July, probably spelling then-struggling Adrian Beltre once or twice a week at third and Eric Karros once a week at first.

But since his July 26 Dodger debut, when he had four hits, four runs batted in and three runs against San Francisco, Houston has only seven hits in 48 at-bats (.146) and has started two of the last 16 games. After singling twice in his first three pinch-hitting appearances, Houston has one hit in his last 10.

And when Manager Jim Tracy decided to sit Karros against Arizona on Monday night, he started left-handed-hitting Dave Hansen, who had three hits in four at-bats during his career against Diamondback starter Rick Helling, over the left-handed Houston.

"I haven't been on this kind of schedule since 1997," said Houston, who hit .302 with seven homers and 33 RBIs as the Brewers' everyday third baseman.

"It's tough when you're used to playing; when you get an at-bat, you want to at least have your timing to where you're close. But that's the situation, and as long as I'm here, I have to deal with that role."

The Dodgers hoped the trade for Houston would light a fire under Beltre, and it did--Beltre has raised his average from .238 to .273 since the deal and is hitting .373 (50 for 134) with seven homers, nine doubles, 27 RBIs and 27 runs over his last 34 games.

But Beltre's surge has relegated Houston to the bench.

"It's obvious why I'm not playing--when I got here, Adrian wasn't hitting .270 with 17 homers," Houston said. "If it took me getting here to turn him on, great. I want to go to the playoffs, and whatever role I can help the team in, I'll do the best I can.

"But I wouldn't be human if I said I don't want to play all the time."

Houston will be a free agent this winter and hopes to sign a multiyear deal. He'd love to remain with the Dodgers and is willing to polish his outfield skills to enhance his value, but he realizes his chances of returning are dimming.

"This is an awesome group of guys and coaches," Houston said, "but I don't know if what I'm looking for at the end of the year is going to be what they're looking for."


Struggling pitcher Kazuhisa Ishii, whose rotation spot was skipped over the weekend, will start tonight against Arizona, "but that's all I will commit to now," Tracy said. "We want to see where he's at, and [how he does] will determine what we do with [Thursday's] off day."

Ishii is 5-8 with a 6.14 earned-run average in the last three months and leads the major leagues with 100 walks, and Tracy could use the off day to push Ishii's next start back. And the Dodgers still have the option of replacing Ishii with Kevin Brown.

"He knows he's not gonna sneak up on anyone anymore," Tracy said of Ishii. "The novelty act has worn off. [Opponents] read the scouting reports, just like we do. They're making him throw strikes, and if he doesn't, they take a walk and paint a rosy picture [for the next hitter]."




(13-9, 4.33 ERA)




(6-9, 4.76 ERA)

Bank One Ballpark, Phoenix, 6:30 p.m.

TV--Fox Sports Net 2.

Radio--KXTA (1150), KWKW (1330).

Update--Arizona third baseman Matt Williams (swelling in his left elbow) and center fielder Steve Finley (mild hamstring strain) sat out Monday night's game because of injuries. Williams will probably return tonight, but with the Dodgers starting a left-hander, Finley will probably be given another day off. With Dodger shortstop Cesar Izturis hitting .328 from the right side, Tracy might move the switch-hitter back to the leadoff spot against left-handers.

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