News and notes as the Dodgers host the Mets

Manny Ramirez did not return to Dodger Stadium today. He apologized to his teammates on the road in Florida last week but is expected to rejoin his teammates to work out and also address the media at some point. Hiroki Kuroda threw 45 pitches in a simulated game, and he said he felt as good as he did before he got hurt. Joe Torre said that he’s likely to have a rehab start this weekend, and Torre would like for him to have at least two rehab appearances before he returns to the Dodgers. Casey Blake (hamstring) was scratched from the lineup tonight. Juan Castro will start at third. Torre said Blake would probably be available tonight. Eric Stults (sprained thumb) is 50-50 to make his start Wednesday. If he can’t pitch, Jeff Weaver will take his spot on Wednesday.
Mario Lopez is throwing out the first pitch tonight.

Cover boy

Just got the May/June issue of “Fore” magazine from the Southern California Golf Association and on the cover is a photo of Vin Scully.

There’s a Voices of the Game feature inside talking golf with Scully, Angels broadcaster Mark Gubicza and Padres analyst Tony Gwynn.

“In New York, I didn’t play at all,” Scully said in the story. “Coming out here, I fell in love with it.”

Scully, who has been a member at Bel-Air Country Club for 39 years, now lives at Sherwood Country Club.

The Scully portion of feature was written by our own Jill Painter.

No Johan, no problem

Seems the Dodgers lucked out, missing Mets ace Johan Santana in the three-game series that starts tonight.

Dodgers should have a big edge with Randy Wolf going against Tim Redding tonight, Chad Billingsley against John Maine on Tuesday and Eric Stults against Livan Hernandez in the series finale Wednesday.

Would you rather have seen Santana pitch? Or are you glad the Dodgers don’t have to face him without Manny?

Casey Blake reacts to Manny

A few quotes from Casey Blake, courtesy of the Associated Press

“He knows he made a mistake. I forgive him. It’s his business.”

“I don’t think anyone was really looking for (an apology). It was something he wanted to do and I think it was heartfelt.”

“I think in Manny’s case, it made him feel better just to get in front of the team. I think it was kind of a big load off his shoulders just to greet the team again.”

“He was a guy concerned about his team and his teammates. I know he feels bad. Everyone knows how he’s feeling. It was just nice to see him again and I think it was nice for him to see us again.”

Also, according to the AP, “Ramirez spoke for a few minutes, and teammates — other than greeting him and shaking his hand — did not ask any questions, said Blake, who declined to say what words Ramirez specifically used during his address to the Dodgers.”

Manny back with teammates

ESPN and the L.A. Times have reported this morning that Manny Ramirez met with his Dodgers teammates at their south Florida hotel. As of yet, there hasn’t been any word of what Ramirez said, although you can expect some details to start trickling out in a couple hours, when the team is at the park and the Dodgers’ clubhouse is opened. Manny, it seems, still isn’t ready to explain himself to the public…

Minor-league report: Single-A Inland Empire and Great Lakes

Single-A Inland Empire 66ers

California League South Division

14-19, 3rd Place, 9.0 Games Back

IT SLYKE THAT: OF Scott Van Slyke ranks second in the California League with a .383 batting average…he is hitting .490 (24-for-49) with seven doubles, three homers, and 14 RBI in 12 May games…Van Slyke started the month with a ten-game hitting streak from May 1-May 10…the Dodgers’ 14th-round pick in 2005 spent the 2008 season with Great Lakes and Inland Empire, hitting a combined .232 with five homers and 33 RBI in 70 games.

EVEN STEVEN: RHP Steve Johnson ranks second in the California League with 42 strikeouts…the Baltimore native struck out 10 and picked up the win in Inland Empire’s 13-3 triumph on May 7 at High Desert (Mariners)…the 21-year-old started the Single-A Midwest League All-Star Game for Great Lakes in 2008 and led the Dodger chain with a combined 12 wins for the Loons and Inland Empire.

P-ER-EZ DISPENSER – INF Eduardo Perez ranks fifth in the California League with a .363 batting average and ranks ninth in the league with a .597 slugging percentage…the Venezuela native went 3-for-3 with two doubles, a homer, and three RBI at Lancaster (Astros) on May 9…the 24-year-old spent the 2008 season with Inland Empire and Great Lakes, batting .274 with nine homers and 43 RBI.

Single-A Great Lakes Loons

Midwest League Eastern Division

17-15, Tied for 3rd Place, 4.5 Games Back

RUSS HOUR: OF Kyle Russell leads the Midwest League with a .647 slugging percentage, nine homers, and 31 RBI…the Dodgers’ third-round pick from the 2008 draft is also 10th in the league with a .319 batting average …the University of Texas alum batted .279 with 11 homers with Rookie-advanced Ogden in 2008.

JAIME BE IMPRESSED: INF Jaime Pedroza has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 games beginning April 30, batting .415 (22-for-53) in that time…he leads the team with a .339 overall average and ranks second with four homers…the Dodgers’ ninth-round pick in 2007 batted .290 with nine homers and 57 RBI in 128 games for Inland Empire in 2008.

ETHAN FLOW: RHP Ethan Martin ranks third in the Midwest League with 40 strikeouts in 30.0 innings and fifth in the league with a 1.80 ERA…the Dodgers’ first-round pick (15th overall) in 2008 has not allowed a run on the road with 13 strikeouts in 11.0 innings…the Georgia native is holding right-handed batters to a .164 average (12-for-73) with 28 strikeouts.

Minor-league report: Double-A Chattanooga

Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts

Southern League North Division

14-19, 3rd Place, 3.0 Games Back

ELBERTS, KNEES, AND TOES: LHP Scott Elbert is 1-0 with 21 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA (2 ER/17.0 IP) in three games since being optioned from Los Angeles on April 29…the Missouri native has limited left-handed hitters to a .133 batting average…the 23-year-old appeared in three April games for the Dodgers, going 1-0 with a 7.11 ERA (5 ER/6.1 IP).

SAVED BY THE BELL: INF Josh Bell is batting .306 (11-for-36) with four doubles and six RBI in 12 May games… the 22-year-old switch-hitter batted .363 (8-for-22) during a seven-game hitting streak from May 2-May 8…the fourth-round pick in the 2005 draft batted .273 with six homers and 21 RBI in 51 games for Inland Empire in 2008.

KING JAMES: OF James Tomlin is batting .348 (8-for-23) with a homer and five RBI in 11 May games…the Playa del Rey native led Double-A Jacksonville in 2008 with 33 doubles and ranked second on the team with a .313 average.