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Reservations about Dodgers' reserves

Team's pinch-hitters have hit .200 this season, with most players on bench considered defensive specialists.

May 28, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez and Bill Shaikin
  • Jay Gibbons walks away from the plate after striking out with two men on against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 16.
Jay Gibbons walks away from the plate after striking out with two men on against… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

Let's get this part out of the way: The Dodgers' bench isn't the worst in the history of baseball, at least not in Don Mattingly's view.

"I can't think all the way back, so I'm going to disagree," the manager said.

Dodgers pinch-hitters have hit .200 this season and have combined for two home runs, both hit by Marcus Thames, currently on the disabled list.

When he wants to rest a starter, Mattingly can find an occasional threat on his bench, such as Jamey Carroll on Saturday night.

But Mattingly's other pinch-hitting options Saturday illustrated the challenge he faces every day: Juan Castro, Tony Gwynn Jr., Dioner Navarro and Jay Gibbons.

Other than Gibbons, everyone in that group is considered a defensive specialist. Three of the four players were hitting .205 or less, Castro being the exception. He is a career .228 hitter.

Mattingly said the injury wave that has hit his team has had a trickle-down effect on the reserves. Young players such as Jerry Sands and Russell Mitchell have been called on to pinch-hit at times.

"There's not a lot of experience," Mattingly said. "Pinch-hitting's tough."

How McCourt made payroll

Frank McCourt met the Dodgers' May 31 payroll primarily by accelerating payments that otherwise would have been made to the team later this season, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The Dodgers owner used accelerated funding to cover almost all of the approximately $9.8 million needed for this payroll period, covering the balance with a relatively small cash infusion from his personal funds, according to one of the people, neither of whom was authorized to comment publicly.

With Commissioner Bud Selig thus far declining to approve a long-term television contract with Fox that McCourt says would resolve the Dodgers' cash-flow problems, McCourt has had to seek alternative funding. He got a $30-million personal loan from Fox that enabled him to meet the two April payrolls and the May 15 payroll.

The next payroll is due June 15, and McCourt is seeking additional funding, the people said.

Tornado relief

Mattingly and others will sign autographs Sunday to raise money for the Salvation Army's tornado relief efforts in Joplin, Mo. Also scheduled to take part in the fundraiser are Ted Lilly, Jonathan Broxton, Scott Elbert, Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra, Mike MacDougal and Ramon Troncoso.

Mattingly and the players will sign from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in Parking Lot 6.

Short hops

Thames is scheduled to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment with triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday, and reliever Vicente Padilla is expected to pitch for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. . . . Sidelined reliever Blake Hawksworth said doctors told him his groin problems are the result of an impingement in his hip that was discovered in an MRI exam Friday. He said he might also have a small labrum tear in his hip. Hawksworth said he won't need surgery and expects to resume throwing in a few days.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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