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DODGER REPORT

Lineup Changes Don't Get Ward Off the Bench

July 23, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

With catcher David Ross in an offensive rut, Manager Jim Tracy moved Paul Lo Duca from first base back to catcher and started Larry Barnes -- not Daryle Ward -- at first base Tuesday night.

With two on, two out and the Dodgers trailing by three runs in the ninth inning Monday night against Colorado, Tracy let the right-handed Ross, who struck out twice in three previous at-bats, hit against right-handed closer Justin Speier instead of going to his bench for the left-handed Ward. Ross struck out.

Tracy said he hasn't lost confidence in Ward, who was supposed to provide some pop off the bench and an attractive option in left field and first base if Brian Jordan or Fred McGriff got hurt. But Jordan and McGriff have been on the disabled list for most of July, and Ward's playing time hasn't increased a bit.

The statistics provide an explanation. Ward began Tuesday's game hitting .183 with no home runs and nine runs batted in. He has 109 at-bats in 52 games, 22 starts, and has four hits in 25 pinch-hit at-bats.

"I'm perplexed," Tracy said of Ward, who had 12 homers and 72 RBIs in 453 at-bats in 2002 and 20 homers and 47 RBIs in 264 at-bats in 2000 for the Houston Astros. "Believe me, I'm perplexed."

Ward isn't.

"I just think they don't want me to play," Ward said. "But I'm past the point [of being frustrated or mad]. When I get called to go up there, I'm going to be ready. If I don't get called, I can't do anything."

Ward, who was excited about last winter's trade because it enabled him to live in his Riverside home with his wife and three children during the season, is making $1.35 million and is eligible for arbitration the next two winters. But it's highly doubtful the Dodgers will tender him a contract for 2004, and Ward seems resigned to his fate.

"Life is a little more important than baseball," Ward said. "My wife and kids are trying to keep me going. I'm not going to have an ulcer over it. If you worry too much, you're going to have health problems.... I'm not on the field playing, but when I go home and see my wife and kids, I've got a smile on my face."

*

Dodger reliever Guillermo Mota was arraigned in Glendale Superior Court on Monday on misdemeanor counts of driving under the influence of alcohol and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 or higher.

Mota, who was arrested on April 21 after allegedly speeding on the Ventura Freeway, was scheduled for a pre-trial conference on Aug. 22, at which point a trial date or another pre-trial conference will be scheduled.

*

Utility player Ron Coomer's appointment with a UCLA Medical Center specialist was pushed back to today, but Coomer, out since July 8 because of a rare jaw problem and persistent headaches, received several injections Tuesday to calm the muscle spasms on the right side of his face and skull.... Looking ahead: Randy Johnson (Friday night) and Curt Schilling (Sunday) are scheduled to pitch against the Dodgers this weekend in Arizona.... Dave Roberts, on a rehabilitation assignment with rookie league Ogden, Utah, had two singles in three at-bats and played five innings in center field.

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