Tom Schieffer, MLB's new monitor of the Dodgers' operations,… (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles…)
As the monitor appointed by Commissioner Bud Selig to oversee the Dodgers' business operations, Tom Schieffer on Friday approved his first expenditure by the team: payroll.
So, yes, cash-strapped owner Frank McCourt still had enough money to issue his players and other employees their second paychecks of the season.
But Schieffer's assignment figures to become increasingly difficult in the coming weeks — so much so that he said he doesn't know how long it will last.
The former Texas Rangers president and U.S. ambassador reported his first full day of work at Dodger Stadium on Friday and met with everyone from McCourt to the players.
Schieffer, who can veto any expense in excess of $5,000, described his meeting with McCourt as "cordial."
"He obviously would prefer that I wasn't here," Schieffer said. "That's OK with me. I understand that. I think we can get this done. I think we've come a long way in a couple of days here."
Schieffer said he told General Manager Ned Colletti that the baseball operations department would continue to work under its preexisting budget. Colletti said that the budget allows for him to make the kind of moves he made in the last couple of trade deadlines.
With Colletti and former manager Joe Torre by his side, Schieffer addressed the players before they took the field for their game against the San Diego Padres. Schieffer said he has sought the advice of Torre, who works for the commissioner's office overseeing on-field issues.
Schieffer said he wanted to tell the players to focus on playing baseball.
Schieffer's greater challenges are ahead of him.
Among his primary tasks will be to figure out the financial state of the franchise, which could be difficult because McCourt has divided the Dodgers' business holdings into separate entities, some of which pay each other.
"That's something where you have to follow the dollar from place to place," Schieffer said.
Schieffer would not say if he thought the money trail was more convoluted here than in other places.
Something else Schieffer would not answer: whether the Dodgers could make payroll next month without a loan from the league.
Blake has surgery
Third baseman Casey Blake was placed on the 15-day disabled list and will be out for at least six weeks after undergoing surgery Thursday for a staph infection on his left elbow, trainer Stan Conte said.
The Dodgers called up infielder Russ Mitchell from triple-A Albuquerque, and Manager Don Mattingly said Juan Uribe will become his primary third baseman.
Blake's elbow, which Conte said at one point swelled to the size of a "big squash," was cleaned out by team surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache. Blake is scheduled to be released from the hospital Saturday. His arm will be in a sling for up to 10 days.
Conte said the medical staff is unsure how the infection developed. The swelling in the elbow was first noticed Monday in Miami when the Dodgers were playing Florida.
"Everyone is wracking their brain on how this happened," he said.
Case closed: Broxton is it
Two days after refusing to say whether Vicente Padilla could close on days Jonathan Broxton is available, Mattingly said definitively that Broxton is his full-time closer.
Padilla closed out the Dodgers' victory over Florida on Wednesday, as Broxton sat out with what Mattingly called a "barky" elbow.
But Conte said he was unaware that Broxton had any elbow issues.
"The first thing I heard about his elbow, I read it in the paper," Conte said.
Loney finding his swing
First baseman James Loney, who was given Friday off, is batting just .206 this season, but during the recent six-game trip he started to find his swing.
He hit .308 (eight for 26) during the trip, highlighted by a four-for-four game at Florida on Tuesday.
"I was just trying too much," Loney said of his approach earlier this season. "Just trying to make everything perfect, you know, and by the time I did all that, it was like, it wasn't me. It just didn't feel right."
Said Mattingly: "The biggest thing I want from James is to flatten the ball out to left field. ... If he can do that, he's going to get a hit."