Tomorrow’s notebook

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
NEW YORK — The Dodgers severed ties with embattled right-hander Brett Tomko on Friday, designating him for assignment to clear a roster spot for newly signed lefty David Wells. But Tomko, who is a miserable 2-11 with a 5.80 ERA this season, wasn’t exactly devastated upon being told of his fate.
“There is a little bit of a sense of relief,” he said. “I love all the guys on this team, and the coaching staff has been great. But it has been a rough year for me in L.A. I haven’t been received well at all there. Hopefully, I will get the chance to go somewhere and get a fresh start for a month and get back to the basics of what made me successful.”
The Dodgers have 10 days to either trade or release Tomko. There is a strong likelihood that a handful of other clubs will have interest in him, but they might wait until the Dodgers release Tomko to sign him. It is believed the Dodgers front office has been trying for weeks to trade him but couldn’t find another club willing to give up much to get him.
The Dodgers still owe Tomko the rest of his $4.1 million salary for this season plus a $1 million buyout of his $4.5 million mutual option for 2008.
“Brett struggled for a good part of the year,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “At this stage of the season, we had to make a move. We had to give ourselves a chance, even if it’s only 1 percent more of a chance.”
Tomko, who also pitched in San Francisco while Colletti was the Giants’ assistant GM, was optimistic about landing with another club.
“Ned and I have a pretty tight relationship,” Tomko said. “I don’t think there will ever be any hard feelings. I hope he will take care of me out of respect and not let me sit around and rot without a chance to go pitch.”

Wells rusty: Wells threw a light side session, saying later it was the first time he had thrown off a mound since being designated for assignment by San Diego on Aug. 9. He will make his Dodgers debut on Sunday night against the New York Mets, his first start since Aug. 6, and it isn’t clear how deep into that game he will be able to go.
“I’ll just pitch my heart out until they take me out, I guess,” Wells said. “Every starter would love to go nine innings, but this being my first start back, I don’t know what is going to happen. I’ll just give it my all and hope for the best.”
Dodgers manager Grady Little didn’t say what he expects of Wells.
“The only thing I know about David Wells is that every time he goes out there, he is going to give it everything he has,” Little said. “I have seen that for a few years, and he is no different right now. How many (pitches) that is, I can’t answer that.”
The Dodgers are paying Wells a base salary of only about $80,000, a prorated share of the major-league minimum $380,000, with the Padres picking up the rest of his $1 million salary for the season. His agreement with the Dodgers also includes incentives based on games started that could result in the Dodgers paying him a total of $800,000 if he doesn’t miss a start the rest of this season. The detailed breakdown of those incentives isn’t clear.
Although Wells said he hopes to be pitching somewhere next year, he spent the past week believing his career was over, and he still believes it probably will be when the season ends.
“It kind of looks that way, but I have been lying … for a long time saying I was going to retire,” Wells said. “I’ll just see what happens next spring, if I can get an invitation early enough that I can get ready for another season.
“I might not look sexy, but I feel sexy.”

Dodgers win 5-2, appear close to signing Wells

All indications are the Dodgers are closing in on a possible agreement with veteran left-hander David Wells, who was released last week by San Diego, making him a free agent. Gregg Clifton, Wells’ Phoenix-based agent, said earlier today that, “If it’s going to happen, it will probably be within the next 24-36 hours,” saying Wells didn’t want to negotiate with any club beyond tomorrow. The Dodgers could have Wells for a prorated share of the major-league minimum salary of $380,000 (about $80,000), but in order to lure him out of semi-retirement, they might have to agree to play a complicated performance bonus in Wells’ contract that was nullified when the Padres released him. Wells’ contract called for him to receive an additional $176,471 per start for starts No. 11-27, and he present has 22 starts. That means the deal could cost the Dodgers an additional $882,355. If he signs with the Dodgers, Wells likely would take the rotation spot of Brett Tomko, meaning he would make his Dodgers debut on Sunday night against the New York Mets at Shea Stadium. It isn’t clear whether other clubs are still pursuing Wells, but Clifton said Wells has a strong desire to play for a contending NL West team that plays on the West Coast — a preference that leaves the Dodgers as the only suitors with a legitimate chance of signing him.

Phanaticism

The Phillie Phanatic is the greatest phriggin’ sports mascot in the history of the phree world. But that is just my personal opinion, so pheel phree to disagree if you pheel so inclined. Anyway, he took this scantily clad woman out of the stands during the last inning break and was dancing on top of the Phillies dugout with her. The idea was for her to watch him closely and repeat every dance move the Phanatic did, and she managed to keep up with him pretty well until right when the song was ending, and the Phanatic grabbed the bottom of the phront of his Phillies jersey and yanked it up, showing off his green, phurry belly. Wisely, the woman declined to repeat that move. … The only major-league player ever to have his name included in the title of a Stephen King novel came on for the Phillies to start this inning and issued a leadoff walk to Matt Kemp, who stole second and scored on a single by Kent. Loney followed Kent’s hit with a blooper that Pat Burrell couldn’t come up with in left, and Burrell lost the ball just long enough for Kent to take third. Martin up now, still nobody out. … Dodgers 3, Phillies 1, top 8

Pierre comes through

He extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a bloop single that fell into shallow center field. More importantly, the hit came with two outs, a man on third and the game tied in the seventh inning. It was the Dodgers’ second hit in eight ABs w/RISP, and the first one that actually drove in a run. Billingsley had a hiccup in the sixth, walking the leadoff man, and it ended up costing him a run. Other than that, though, he has been brilliant, giving up just four hits to this point. … Pierre just got thrown out trying to steal second, snapping his string of successful steal attempts at a career-high 18, and he dislocated his left pinky finger diving into the bag. Apparently, trainer Stan Conte popped it back into place, because Pierre is going back out to CF. … Dodgers 2, Phillies 0, middle 7

Billingsley cruises but offense sputters

Fabio Castro has walked five guys in four innings, and the Dodgers haven’t scored. Kent GIDP’d with men on first and third and one out in the third, and Gonzo GIDP’d after Martin drew a one-out walk in the fourth. But the biggest hiccup by the offense came in the second, after Castro walked the bases loaded with two outs, then went to a 3-2 count on Billingsley. Billingsley, who should have duct taped the bat to his shoulder before the next pitch, instead swung and missed at a pitch that appeared to be at roughly the level of his neck. End of inning, end of threat. Other than that, though, Billingsley has been superb. He has allowed ust one baserunner, a leadoff single by Jayson Werth in the third inning. Most importantly, he is two batters into the fourth inning and has thrown just 37 pitches. Who are you and what have you done with Chad Billingsley? … Dodgers 0, Phillies 0, bottom 4

Today’s lineup

Despite my best efforts to state my case in this morning’s paper that Ethier and Kemp have to be in the lineup together on a regular basis — a position that was supported by their dual performances last night — Ethier is sitting today in favor of Gonzo. Hillenbrand is playing 1B to get Loney a day off, with Martinez playing 3B.

SS Furcal
CF Pierre
RF Kemp
2B Kent
1B Hillenbrand
C Martin
LF Gonzo
3B Martinez
RH Billingsley

Bills got through the first inning on just a handful of pitches, retiring all three batters and striking out two of them. Looks like he might be ON today, but it’s too early to really tell. Fabio Castro retired the Dodgers in order in the first but has walked two of the first three batters here in the second. Gonzo coming up. … Dodgers 0, Phillies 0, top 2

Dodgers 15, Phillies 3

In losing two of three at Dodger Stadium last month, the Phillies managed to win the middle game by a score of 15-3. The Dodgers won 15-3 tonight, so does that mean they’re destined to lose today’s rubber game? We’ll see, but one thing that might help them win it is having Kemp and Ethier in the lineup together, something those of you who regularly post comments on this blog have been clamoring for for weeks. It happened tonight, and the two went 6 for 10 with a double, triple, homer, five runs and five RBI. Grady said after the game he’ll stick with the plan of rotating Kemp, Ethier and Gonzo into those three spots. In more than a dozen years of covering this game, Gonzo is one of the classiest guys I have ever been around, and he has been a huge positive presence in the Dodgers clubhouse this season. But the time for this transition, in my humble opinion, has come. Ethier-Pierre-Kemp is going to be the Dodgers’ OF for years to come, and it’s their best OF now. … Dodgers go to 65-61 for the season. They stay 2 1/2 back in the wild card, because the Pods won. D-backs are up 3-2 in the eighth, so Dodgers probably remain six back in the division. Wild card is too complicated for me to figure out this late at night. Good night, all.

Pierre’s streak reaches 10 games

He just singled off Jose Mesa in the seventh. Meanwhile, D-Lowe is sailing, although he did dodge a bullet in the sixth when he got Ryan Howard to ground out 4-3 with runners on the corners and two outs. Of the 18 outs Lowe has recorded, 13 have come on ground balls.He also has three strikeouts. Dodgers added two runs in the sixth on RBI double by Kent, giving him 1,445 career RBI and tying him for 54th place on the all-time list, and an RBI single by Loney. … Dodgers 5, Phillies 1, top 7.

Tomorrow’s notebook

Another crazy day, so I’m only now getting around to posting. Great pitching duel going on here between D-Lowe and J.D. Durbin. Durbin gave up a one-out double to Kent in the fourth followed by a two-run homer by Ethier, and that is the difference so far. D-Lowe has allowed just one baserunner, a leadoff double by Jimmy Rollins in the fourth, but Rollins didn’t advance. Dodgers 3, Phillies 0, bottom 5

By Tony Jackson
Staff Writer
PHILADELPHIA — Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf, who played catch on Wednesday for the first time since his ill-fated rehabilitation start for Single-A Inland Empire on July 25, said that if he does pitch in the majors again this year, it likely will be as a reliever.
“I think (starting) would be hard, because we’re running out of time,” said Wolf, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since July 4 with shoulder soreness. “The minor leagues are going to be over. For me to build up my stamina and get enough innings to start will be difficult. So realistically, I think to help out in the bullpen would be my best bet.”
Wolf said his throwing session went “great,” and he plans to have another one today. But there still is no target date for throwing off a mound.
“Usually when I don’t throw for a while, my arm feels really funky, like I have never thrown a ball before in my life,” said Wolf, who was celebrating his 31st birthday. “But I actually didn’t feel that way this time. … I don’t want to get caught up in the calendar. You want to be smart about it. If I have to take it easy one day, I don’t want it to feel like a setback.”
Left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo (elbow inflammation) also played catch for the first time. Right-hander Chin-hui Tsao (shoulder) is not on the trip and isn’t expected to start playing catch until sometime next week.

Not yet: The Dodgers aren’t considering promoting right-hander James McDonald from Double-A Jacksonville to start Sunday night’s game at New York, so embattled right-hander Brett Tomko apparently will stay in the starting rotation.
“When (McDonald) is ready, he will be here, just like all our other young players,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “(Tomko) is one of our five starters right now.”
The front office is still trying to find another pitcher outside the organization and is believed to have at least some interest in veteran lefty David Wells, who was released by San Diego a week ago. An additional pitcher probably would push Tomko back to the bullpen or even off the roster.
Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti has personally witnessed three of McDonald’s starts this season, including Tuesday night’s loss to Mississippi when McDonald gave up three runs in a shaky first inning but otherwise dominated in a five-inning performance.
“He looked really interesting, in a good way,” Colletti said. “This kid had a great feel for pitching. He has four pitches, and he throws them for strikes, he changes speeds, he changes eye levels, he throws on a downhill plane, he puts a lot of thought into what he does, and he is successful doing it.”
McDonald is 6-2 with a 1.65 ERA since his promotion from Single-A Inland Empire. But he also has thrown 125 2/3 innings this season, and his velocity, which reached the 92-93 mph range earlier in the season, is topping out now at 87-88. That probably is a sign he is tired, and that could be enough to dissuade club officials from calling him up this year.

Nostalgic trip: The Dodgers will make the 130-mile trip to New York after today’s game by train, a mode of transportation they haven’t used in recent memory. Traveling secretary Scott Akasaki had arranged for the team to travel by bus, but a couple of veteran players who had taken the train with their previous clubs suggested the Dodgers do the same.
“It’s a little bit quicker as opposed to the bus because we don’t have to worry about getting stuck in rush-hour traffic,” Akasaki said.
While the team will ride a regularly scheduled commercial train from 30th Street Station to Manhattan’s Penn Station, special arrangements have been made to ensure the team’s security. The Dodgers will ride private cars and will wait in a first-class lounge before boarding the train. The club then will be escorted onto and off the train by Amtrak police.
Major-league clubs traveled primarily by train until the 1950s, when the game’s westward expansion and the advent of the jet engine made air travel both more necessary and more convenient.

Phillies 5, Dodgers 4

Dodgers never got a hit after Loney’s leadoff homer in the seventh cut it to 5-4, and they never got a man on base after Furcal walked with two outs in that same inning. But this rotation is a mess, and it’s tough to imagine Tomko going back out there with this team in the middle of a playoff race. McDonald lost tonight at Jacksonville, but he went five innings and struck out seven batters, and all three of the runs he gave up came in the first inning. Seems like as good a time as any to give the kid a shot, even if it means he pitches on Sunday night at Shea Stadium on national TV. Hey, everybody has to start somewhere, right? … Dodgers fall to 64-61, but they got lucky when the Mets rallied to beat the Pods, so the boys stay 2 1/2 back in the wild card. D-backs are playing now. Rockies are going to win, so they’ll be tied with the Dodgers for third place in the division.