YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Hillenbrand joins struggling club

August 14, 2007|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

Desperate to bolster their sagging offense, the Dodgers on Monday purchased the contract of a player who has been released by two teams this season: corner infielder Shea Hillenbrand.

Hillenbrand, 32, signed a minor league contract last week and was assigned to triple-A Las Vegas, where he was seven for 13 in three games. The Dodgers sent outfielder Delwyn Young to Las Vegas to make room for Hillenbrand on the active roster and moved pitcher Jason Schmidt to the 60-day disabled list to create space on the 40-man roster.

Hillenbrand entered Monday's game as a fifth-inning replacement for third baseman Nomar Garciaparra, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

Hillenbrand is a two-time All-Star but is with his fifth organization in two years and has a less-than-glowing reputation as a clubhouse influence. He started the season with the Angels and hit .254 in 53 games.

Dodgers Manager Grady Little managed Hillenbrand in Boston in 2002 and 2003, and said he had no problems with him.

Little added: "At this point, we're not looking for a good presence in the clubhouse. We're looking for production on the field."

Hillenbrand was batting .301 with Toronto last season but was designated for assignment and eventually traded to San Francisco after Blue Jays Manager John Gibbons challenged him to a fight.

Hillenbrand asked to be let go by the Angels because he was being used sparingly. He was released in July, signed a minor league deal with San Diego, then was released again without ever playing for the Padres.

Mark Hendrickson has been relegated to bullpen duty again, opening up a spot in the rotation on Friday. Hendrickson will be available to relieve starting today.

Hendrickson is 0-3 with a 9.64 earned-run average over his last five starts.

The Dodgers are looking within the organization to replace Hendrickson in the rotation. The most likely candidate is triple-A left-hander Eric Stults, who pitched 5 1/3 solid innings in a start against the Mets on July 22. That day, Stults gave up two runs, both in the sixth inning.

Asked whether Stults would be his starter on Friday, Little replied, "Could be."

Little also mentioned right-hander D.J. Houlton as a possibility.

Stults hasn't pitched well since being sent down to Las Vegas, giving up 15 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings over three starts.

Houlton was optioned to triple A on Aug. 10 to clear space for pinch-hit specialist Mark Sweeney and pitched 2 2/3 shutout innings in relief the next day. Houlton's last start was July 12 with Las Vegas.

Right-hander Kyle Blair, the Dodgers' highest unsigned draft pick, said the decision whether to sign a pro contract or attend the University of San Diego remained "up in the air." The deadline to sign draft choices is 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Blair, a hard thrower from Los Gatos, Calif., slipped to the fifth round because of concerns about teams' ability to sign him. He is thought to be looking for a seven-figure signing bonus.

Blair said playing summer ball in the Northwoods League in Minnesota -- "playing baseball, no school," he said -- has him excited about the possibility of being in the minors.

Said Dodgers assistant general manager Logan White: "We obviously like Kyle Blair a lot. Either way it goes, we know he'll be a good pitcher."

Los Angeles Times Articles