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Perez's Shoulder a Concern

Dodger starter has to leave after five innings, which could be another blow to the rotation.

June 27, 2004|Bill Shaikin | Times Staff Writer

Robin Ventura took four balls, but the umpires lost count of the count. Dodger Manager Jim Tracy argued, to no avail. So Ventura took ball five, then took first base.

"Five balls were thrown," Tracy said. "You're only supposed to get four."

It was that kind of day, and that kind of week, for the Dodgers. After a thrilling victory over the New York Yankees last Sunday, they have lost six consecutive games, including Saturday's 7-5 loss to the Angels, and crashed to third place in the National League West. With an injury forcing Odalis Perez to leave the game after five innings, a once-promising season threatens to derail before the All-Star break.

"Hopefully, it's the end of a bad patch," General Manager Paul DePodesta said. "Last Sunday, we were feeling great. As quickly as it turned bad, it can turn back around good.

"We have to believe that, or else it won't."

Without Perez, it won't. He felt a burning sensation in his left shoulder during the fourth inning, he said, and the discomfort eased in the fifth, then returned. He was diagnosed with rotator cuff irritation, with the words "rotator cuff" stirring visions of season-ending injury.

Perez said he would try to play catch today and said an MRI examination has not yet been scheduled. "I'm not really concerned right now," he said.

In case of serious injury, the Dodgers would be seriously concerned. Tracy has said Hideo Nomo remains in the starting rotation only because of a lack of alternatives within the organization. The Angels torched Jose Lima on Friday, and Kazuhisa Ishii, today's starter, is a few home runs from disaster, with 52 walks and 40 strikeouts in 83 innings.

So Perez might be the player the Dodgers can least afford to lose.

"He's huge," outfielder Dave Roberts said. "Every single time he toes the rubber, he gives us a chance to win. To have him miss any starts would be detrimental to our team."

Said Perez: "It would be very tough. They don't want to see me sitting down."

DePodesta did not sound as pessimistic as Tracy about the outlook for promoting a pitcher from within the organization, citing triple-A starters Edwin Jackson, Joel Hanrahan and Brian Falkenborg as possibilities.

"Jackson, Hanrahan and Falkenborg still could be the guys," DePodesta said. "They're starting to make some real progress."

That's more than could be said about the Dodger offense. The Dodgers did not get a hit in the final five innings Saturday, fielding a lineup in which Adrian Beltre and Juan Encarnacion were the only consistent extra-base threats.

That forces the Dodgers to bunch singles to score runs. Tracy does not believe he needs to hold a team meeting in which he would inevitably remind his players of their failures at driving in runners.

"Redundancy, time after time, gets to the point where you've heard it before," he said. "You don't really want to continue to hear it. You know what has to be done. You have to go out and do exactly that."

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