Kuo was moved to the 60-day to make room for Valdez, but he was on the 15-day longer than 60 days so he still can be activated as soon as he is ready
By Tony Jackson
CHICAGO — Doubles might become singles, and infield singles might become groundouts. But for better or worse, the Dodgers activated Nomar Garciaparra from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, satisfied that his left calf had healed sufficiently to allow him to fill a narrowly defined role off the bench.
“To be honest, it would be a game-saving, pinch-hitting situation, where him getting farther than first base wouldn’t be that important,” Dodgers manager Grady Little said. “When he hits, it will be because runners are in scoring position, and it could make a difference in the game. That way, it won’t be a matter whether he can run at full speed.”
Garciaparra is hitting .404 for the season with runners in scoring position, the primary reason why club officials are willing to take this risk. And it is a risk, especially since instinct tends to take over when a player puts a ball into play.
“I have to be pretty smart and not go out of the box quickly,” Garciaparra said. “One little false step or hard step, and I’m back at square one where I was before. We just want to continue moving forward.”
Both Garciaparra and Little said they are confident Garciaparra’s calf will heal enough in the less than four weeks remaining in the regular season that he eventually will be able to run at full speed and possibly return to the starting lineup — although a lot of that might depend on how rookie Andy LaRoche performs at third base in Garciaparra’s absence.
“When he is able to run, we’ll see,” Little said. “We’re not sure when that will be.”
Crowded house: The activation of Garciaparra and the callup of five more players — pitchers Eric Hull and Eric Stults, infielders Tony Abreu and Wilson Valdez and outfielder Delwyn Young, all from Triple-A Las Vegas — gives the Dodgers 36 players for the rest of the regular season, far more than most clubs carry for the stretch run.
Little said each player will serve some purpose.
“Every one of them is here because we think they can do one thing for us to help us win one game, whether it’s defense, pinch running, saving the bullpen,” Little said. “Anything can happen. It’s a good opportunity for these young guys to come up here and show us what they can do. The opportunities are possibly going to be few and far between, but they will get a lot of work before batting practice each day.
“They will be ready when they get the opportunity.”
Valdez wasn’t on the 40-man roster, so in order to clear a spot for him, the Dodgers moved lefty Hong-Chih Kuo from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day. Kuo’s scheduled bullpen session was canceled when he experienced discomfort in his surgically repaired elbow, but neither Little nor trainer Stan Conte termed that a setback.
Despite the move, Kuo is eligible to return any time because he was on the 15-day DL longer than 60 days. Still, another 40-man spot would have to be cleared before he could be activated.
Also: Right-hander Brett Tomko, whom the Dodgers designated for assignment on Aug. 24 and released on Monday, signed on Tuesday with San Diego. The Dodgers are still on the hook for about $1.5 million of Tomko’s two-year, $8.7 million contract. … Before returning to the majors, Young hit his 54th double in Las Vegas’ season-ending win at Salt Lake on Sunday, tying the modern Pacific Coast League record set by Tulsa’s Walt “No Neck” Williams in 1966. … Double-A Jacksonville’s season-ending loss to Montgomery left all but one of the Dodgers’ minor-league affiliates shut out of their respective leagues’ playoffs. The club’s Gulf Coast League entry lost to the Yankees two games to one in last week’s best-of-three championship series.