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DODGERS NOTEBOOK: DREW SAYS HIS KNEE IS FEELING BETTER.

Byline: Tony Jackson Staff Writer

ANAHEIM - Dodgers outfielder J.D. Drew tested his ailing left knee by swinging a bat on Saturday. While he reportedly felt fine and could return to the lineup today, Drew wasn't available for Saturday night's 3-1 loss to the Angels, when the Dodgers could have used him with two outs in the ninth inning and the potential tying run at the plate.

Instead, manager Jim Tracy had little choice but to send up catcher Mike Rose, who entered the day batting .176 but who had doubled off the center field wall - just missing a home run - in his previous at-bat. Rose struck out, one of eight hitless at-bats with runners in scoring position for the Dodgers Saturday.

Tracy's only other options were light-hitting middle infielder Oscar Robles and Jason Grabowski, who is more capable of hitting a game-tying homer than Rose, but was a career 0 for 2 with two strikeouts against Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez.

``I don't know that the choices were overwhelming,'' Tracy said.

Drew has missed the past four games because of a piece of loose cartilage in his knee that causes him pain when he jogs. It now appears that he will avoid the disabled list, but it was determined before the game that he was unavailable for Saturday.

``He felt pretty good (swinging),'' Tracy said. ``He got through it pretty well, but they treated him a lot during the course of the entire ballgame. We'll come back here (this) morning and see where he's at. I won't rule in the fact that he'll be available, but at this point I won't rule it out, either.''

--Odalis Perez update: Left-hander Odalis Perez, who has been out for more than a month with left shoulder soreness, got up to 64 pitches in his third rehabilitation start with Triple-A Las Vegas on Saturday night at Tucson, but didn't pitch well and likely will make a fourth start for the 51s before being activated, especially now that he is lined up to pitch again on Thursday when the Dodgers are off.

Perez gave up five earned runs on seven hits, facing 23 batters in just 4 2/3 innings.

General manager Paul DePodesta was non-committal on the issue of whether Perez is ready.

``We'll talk about it over the next couple of days,'' DePodesta said. ``We could have him go one more or make a decision to go ahead and bring him back.''

Despite losing nine of their past 11 games, the Dodgers are getting solid starting pitching on an almost nightly basis, so there is no urgency to get Perez back into the rotation.

--Gagne speaks: A visibly relieved Eric Gagne met with the media on Saturday for the first time since undergoing what was supposed to be his second career Tommy John surgery. It wound up being a simpler neurolysis procedure on Gagne's right elbow that will sideline him only for the rest of this season.

``It's a big relief,'' said Gagne, who waited for the post-surgery drugs to wear off, then drove himself to Angel Stadium for Saturday night's game. ``It's great, and it's not so great. I'm kind of mad that I had to through all that, but it's better news than I expected.

``I won't start playing catch for about two months, (but) from what I heard, I'm going to be ready to go by (the start of) spring training.''

Tony Jackson, (818) 713-3675

tony.jackson(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 26, 2005
Words:580
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