Reporting from San Diego —
The surprises just keep coming with Dodgers pitcher Ramon Ortiz.
Early in the Dodgers game with the San Diego Padres on Friday night, the Padres intentionally walked Jamey Carroll to load the bases with one out to face the weak-hitting Ortiz, who turns 37 next week.
Ortiz attempted a squeeze bunt that instead was turned into a double play that killed the Dodgers' threat. That wasn't the only problem — Manager Joe Torre hadn't called for the bunt. It was Ortiz's idea.
The Dodgers eventually won, so the ever-smiling Ortiz could laugh about it afterward.
"I tried to bunt the ball on the line, but it stayed [straight] too much, right to the pitcher," he said. "I did it by myself."
Did Torre say anything to Ortiz when he got back to the dugout?
"No, he didn't say anything to me," Ortiz said. "Nobody said anything."
Torre later told reporters he was pleased with Ortiz's outing, "all but the bunt single [attempt], which I don't understand yet. When you have a little advance notice on this, we could maybe head it off. But we escaped, so it was OK."
That Ortiz was the Dodgers starting pitcher in the game was another surprise, and for that matter so was his presence on the team's active roster.
With the fifth spot on the Dodgers rotation still in flux, Torre chose Ortiz to pitch Friday so that Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley could have an extra day of rest before they faced San Diego this weekend. Ortiz had made 14 relief appearances and had a 5.16 earned-run average.
It was the Dominican's first start since May 2007, when he was with the Minnesota Twins, and back then it appeared Ortiz's big league career — which included standout years with the Angels in 2001-03 — was nearing its end.
He spent 2008 playing for Orix Buffaloes in the Japanese Pacific League, and last year he played with the San Francisco Giants' triple-A team in Fresno.
But after signing a minor league contract with the Dodgers in February, Ortiz sparkled in spring training, helped by a curveball he developed while in Japan.
Ortiz said he needed the curveball and everything else in his arsenal, including a slider and changeup, against the Padres, who tagged him for three earned runs in four-plus innings. Of his 85 pitches, he threw 54 strikes.
Although the Dodgers won, 4-3, Ortiz didn't last the required minimum of five innings to get the victory. But he was satisifed nonetheless.
"I enjoyed the opportunity" that Torre gave him, he said. "I'm very positive."
The Dodgers will get several opportunities to size up the division-leading Padres, with the teams playing five times in seven days this month.
Torre noted that San Diego has looked strong since spring training.
"They're a young club, they're playing with a lot of confidence," he said. "They just don't know what not being able to to do the job is."
But while San Diego is off to a good start, Torre cautioned that "the key for them is to see how they handle their first slump. It's going to happen, I don' t care how good you are."