Manny Ramirez is still trying to regain his rhythm.
Entering the Dodgers' series opener against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday, the $20-million outfielder was batting.200 with two home runs and 13 runs batted in the 22 games he had played since he was activated from the 15-day disabled list May 8. His average fell from .415 to .283 over that span.
Hitting coach Don Mattingly said Ramirez's balance problems are nowhere near as severe as they were during his slump in the second half of last season.
So what's the problem?
"I really think it's a matter of him getting his timing," Mattingly said.
Ramirez had struck out three times in 41 at-bats before he went on the disabled list. Through Wednesday, he had struck out 16 times in his previous 65 at-bats.
Mattingly said regaining a sense of timing at this stage of the season is a major challenge.
"Early on, it's tough to sit for two weeks," Mattingly said. "It's not like sitting in the middle of the year when you have at-bats under your belt."
Mattingly said the recent slumps by Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier are also most probably a result of the time they spent on the disabled list.
That Ramirez is 38 years old adds an obstacle.
"It keeps getting away because we have to keep giving him rest," Mattingly said. "It's hard for him to get timing."
Ramirez has been out of the lineup eight times in the Dodgers' last 25 games. He hasn't started four of their last five day games.
Blake scratched from lineup
Casey Blake, who went into Thursday with a team-high nine-game hitting streak, was a late scratch from the lineup because of back spasms he experienced during pregame warmups. Blake was replaced at third base by Jamey Carroll.
"It doesn't look major," trainer Stan Conte said. "It could be a couple of days. At this point, it doesn't look like a disk."
Blake was scheduled to be examined by team doctors.
Torre against expanding use of instant replay
Manager Joe Torre, one of 14 members of a committee assembled by Commissioner Bud Selig to address on-field issues, said he is against expanding the use of instant replay. The issue regained the spotlight when a blown call Wednesday cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game.
"I really don't want to eliminate the fact that you have people out there making decisions," Torre said.
Torre and other committee members are scheduled to speak next week.
Padilla, Sherrill back in action
Vicente Padilla pitched for Class-A Inland Empire in his first game since he was put on the disabled list with nerve problems in his throwing arm April 25.
Padilla held High Desert to one hit over three innings and struck out five. Torre said he expects Padilla to pitch in at least three minor league games before he returns to the major league rotation.
George Sherrill also pitched in that game, striking out two in a scoreless inning. Sherrill could be activated next week.
Thanks for the four innings, kid
Because the Dodgers were in need of an extra arm after using most of their bullpen in a 14-inning victory over Arizona on Wednesday, they optioned Travis Schlichting to triple-A Albuquerque and activated knuckleballer Charlie Haeger from the 15-day disabled list. Schlichting pitched the final four innings Wednesday to earn his first major league victory.
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