CINCINNATI — The Dodger plan for third baseman Norihiro Nakamura to make good in the major leagues after 13 seasons in Japan has given way to a similar hope for Mexican infielder Oscar Robles.
Nakamura, who batted .128 in 39 at-bats, was designated for assignment after Sunday night's game. The Dodgers removed him from the 40-man roster and have 10 days to trade, release or place him on waivers.
If he clears waivers, he can be sent to the minors -- which a Dodger official said is the preferred option.
"If they told me to go to the minors and get at-bats and come back to the Dodgers, I would feel better, but they didn't say that," a distraught Nakamura told a Japanese reporter.
Robles led the Dodgers with a .433 batting average in spring training, but was sent back to the Mexican league team with which he has spent five years because he didn't make the 25-man roster. He hit .388 in 29 games this season for the Mexico City Red Devils.
The Dodgers had to pay a six-figure sum to purchase his contract. Robles might not be able to join the team until Tuesday because of travel logistics, Manager Jim Tracy said.
J.D. Drew admits the comments from Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa stung, but rather than get into a war of words he prefers to let his record since he left St. Louis speak for itself.
La Russa said in the book "3 Nights in August" that he couldn't get the most out of Drew, whose five years with the team were marred by injuries. Drew never played more than 135 games in a season for the Cardinals and had major knee surgery after the 2002 season.
He said there were times he made the 30-minute drive from Chesterfield, Mo., to Busch Stadium with his right leg lifted onto the dashboard because he couldn't bend his knee.
Drew was traded to the Atlanta Braves and had a stellar 2004 season, playing 145 games and batting .305 with 31 home runs. So far, so good with the Dodgers, too. He has rebounded from an 0-for-25 start and is batting .273 with a .408 on-base percentage and five home runs.
Oh, and he's played in every game but two. Both off days, including Sunday, came at Tracy's suggestion.
"Tracy and [Atlanta's] Bobby Cox are great managers," Drew said. "They are so positive and don't play head games with players."
Eric Gagne struck out the side in his first rehabilitation appearance for triple-A Las Vegas. The closer, recovering from an elbow sprain, threw 11 strikes in 13 pitches in the ninth inning of a non-save situation. Gagne is to spend today with the Dodgers in St. Louis, then meet the 51s in Memphis and pitch Tuesday. ... Javier Valentin, younger brother of injured Dodger third baseman Jose Valentin, is the Reds' backup catcher. Jose Valentin Sr., father of Jose and Javier, was coach of the Puerto Rico national team for 15 years. ... Tracy spent Saturday night in his hometown of Hamilton, Ohio, visiting his parents and throwing out the first pitch at a Badin High game. He was a three-sport star at the school in the early 1970s.
Opponent -- St. Louis Cardinals, four games.
Site -- Busch Stadium.
TV -- FSN West 2.
Radio -- 980, 1330.
Records -- Dodgers 19-11, Cardinals 19-11.
2004 record vs. Cardinals -- 2-4.
Tonight, 5 PDT -- Odalis Perez (4-2, 4.25) vs. Mark Mulder (4-1, 2.93).
Tuesday, 5 p.m. -- Scott Erickson (1-3, 6.15) vs. Matt Morris (2-0, 2.25).
Wednesday, 5 p.m. -- Brad Penny (2-0, 2.00) vs. Jeff Suppan (2-3, 3.47).
Thursday, 10 a.m. -- Derek Lowe (2-3, 2.87) vs. Chris Carpenter (4-2, 4.24).