By Tony Jackson
ST. LOUIS — The Dodgers are holding out hope they still can sign right-hander Kyle Blair, their fifth-round draft choice who has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of San Diego. The deadline for signing draft picks is 9 p.m. on Wednesday.
“We definitely have interest in Kyle Blair, and we like his ability,” Dodgers scouting director Tim Hallgren said. “We just have to see how it works out.”
Blair made it clear as far back as draft day, more than two months ago, that he wouldn’t sign for fifth-round money. It probably will take around $1.1 million, which is almost $1 million more than the Dodgers gave fourth-rounder Andrew Lambo ($165,000), a high-school outfielder. Of all the picks the Dodgers have signed, only first-rounder Chris Withrow ($1.35 million) received a seven-figure bonus.
The Dodgers did sign 25th-round pick Tim Sexton, a right-hander, last week. He received a $123,000 bonus, commensurate with where he would have been drafted if he hadn’t fallen so far because clubs were concerned about his signability. Sexton made his professional debut on Saturday for the Dodgers’ Single-A Great Lakes affiliate, a scoreless, five-inning relief stint in which he struck out six batters and didn’t issue a walk.
Pitching depth: After Dodgers left-hander Mark Hendrickson lasted just 2 2/3 innings in Sunday’s loss to St. Louis, resulting in manager Grady Little having to use four relievers, Little hinted the club might have to go back to 12 pitchers for tonight’s game with Houston.
“If something needs to be done, we’ll see,” Little said.
That could mean the long-awaited major-league debut of top relief prospect Jonathan Meloan is at hand. The fireballing right-hander has been as impressive in eight appearances at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he has struck out 11 batters in 11 2/3 innings, as he was in 35 outings at Double-A Jacksonville, where he struck out 70 in 45 1/3 innings.
Meloan, 23, has a 1.54 ERA for the 51s.
Touchy subject: Dodgers infielder Tony Abreu hasn’t played since the club optioned him to Las Vegas more than a month ago. The official reason is that he still is suffering from the abdominal injury that sidelined him for about a week in early July, but it is intriguing that Abreu is on the inactive list instead of the seven-day disabled list.
“I don’t want to get into (that),” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.
The problem is that Abreu actually came back from his injury and played in each of the Dodgers’ final four games before he was sent out. That naturally would lead to skepticism about the injury.
“The last time I saw Tony Abreu, he was running first to third and playing in the big leagues,” Colletti said.
In fairness, the last time Abreu ran first to third in the majors was on July 2, before his injury. But Colletti’s point, however cryptic, still holds.