DENVER -- Less than four weeks removed from suffering a sprained ligament in his left knee, Juan Pierre was on his way to Las Vegas to start a minor league rehabilitation assignment with the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate.
Manager Joe Torre said that Pierre, who was expected to be out for six weeks, could be activated during the Dodgers' upcoming series at Dodger Stadium against Washington, perhaps as early as Saturday.
Asked what this would mean for an outfield that has started Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Andruw Jones in Pierre's absence, Torre said, "I don't know yet. I'm going to have to do this strictly by feel."
On the day Pierre was hurt, Torre said in his pregame chat with reporters that Pierre would be the everyday left fielder, Jones would be the everyday center fielder and Ethier and Kemp would compete for playing time in right. That no longer appears to be the plan.
"I've seen Andre and Matt make great strides, Andre with the consistency of his at-bats and Matt seems to be getting a better feel right now," Torre said.
The manager said he wasn't ready to turn Jones, who signed a two-year, $36-million contract this winter, into a part-time player. Jones returned early from a rehab assignment because of Pierre's injury, Torre noted, and hasn't had much time to work out the flaws in his swing with hitting coaches Don Mattingly and Jeff Pentland.
Left-hander Eric Stults, who lasted only 3 2/3 innings in his start Monday against the Colorado Rockies, was sent to triple-A Las Vegas to clear a roster spot for Clayton Kershaw, who was called up to start Tuesday.
"I think Joe wants to see me get that aggression back," said Stults, who pitched a shutout on June 25 against the Chicago White Sox. "Last night I was behind in counts. We want to go down and get confidence on getting that first-pitch strike."
Stults' demotion creates an opening in the rotation, but because of the off day in the schedule Thursday, the Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until July 29.
Torre named Jason Johnson, who was starting in Las Vegas until he was called up last week, as a possibility to fill the role. Torre added that he preferred to keep Chan Ho Park in the bullpen.
Opening-day starter Brad Penny threw 55 pitches in a bullpen session and remains slated to pitch in a minor league game this weekend. . . . Right-hander Scott Proctor threw off a mound for the first time since being put on the disabled list June 25 because of tendinitis in his right elbow. . . . Jason Schmidt was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday in Los Angeles and received an injection in the bursa area of his shoulder. . . . Bullpen coach Ken Howell, who had part of a toe on his right foot amputated earlier this month, is set to rejoin the team when it opens a 10-game homestand Friday. Jim Slaton, who was filling in for Howell, will return to Las Vegas after the game today and go back to being the triple-A club's pitching coach. . . . The Angels and the Oakland Athletics are among the teams being scouted by the Dodgers as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline nears. The Angels appear to be unlikely trade partners and the Dodgers don't appear to be interested in A's closer Huston Street and shortstop Bobby Crosby.