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DODGERS NOTEBOOK: MAY RETURN LIKELY FOR DODGERS' BELTRE.

Byline: Brian Dohn Staff Writer

The Dodgers have long hoped third baseman Adrian Beltre would be ready to play in May.

That time is nearing and Beltre could be back during the Dodgers' next homestand. The club hopes Beltre can return either for the Dodgers' series with Atlanta, which begins May 11, or when the club begins a nine-game road trip May 15 in Montreal.

If all goes as planned this weekend, the club will send him to Class A Vero Beach (Fla.) to begin a rehab assignment Monday.

``Once we go on the road, he could (go to Vero Beach),'' Dodgers interim general manager Dave Wallace said. ``As far as a plan, we'll be conservative. He has to get some at-bats.''

Beltre's been on the disabled list since the season began and he hasn't played in a game since Oct. 1. He missed the early part of spring training with an infection he contracted after an emergency appendectomy Jan. 12 in the Dominican Republic.

Beltre had surgery March 12 at Centinela Hospital Medical Center to close a hole in his large intestine, which the infection caused.

The two-month ordeal caused Beltre to lose more than 30 pounds, of which he has 12 to 14 more to gain to return to his playing weight of 211. However, Beltre's taking live batting practice and fielding grounders, which gives the club hope. Manager Jim Tracy said Beltre would need about 60 at-bats to be ready.

``It's not going to be three or four games,'' Wallace said of Beltre's rehab assignment. ``We'll watch it every day. After five or six days, we'll assess where he's at.''

The Dodgers are anxious to get Beltre's bat and glove back. Beltre batted .290 with 20 homers and 85 RBI last season, which included a .331 average after the All-Star break. He's also one of the most talented defensive third baseman in the league, though he made 52 errors in the last two seasons.

In filling in for Beltre, the Dodgers' third-base contingent - Phil Hiatt, Chris Donnels, Hiram Bocachica and Jeff Reboulet - is batting .195 with two homers and six RBI. When Bocachica couldn't handle Abraham Nunez's grounder in the third, it was the fifth error committed by a Dodgers third baseman.

Beltre will start at Vero Beach, but he could also play at Double-A Jacksonville (Fla.) or Triple-A Las Vegas as his stamina and endurance grows, Wallace said.

--Injuries galore: The Dodgers' lineup was a mishmash of what it should be thanks to injuries that forced three starters out. The most serious is the sprained right thumb second baseman Mark Grudzielanek suffered diving into third base during Wednesday's ninth inning.

Tracy said Grudzielanek is likely out of the weekend three-game series against Philadelphia. The club is hopeful Grudzielanek can return when the club heads to Cincinnati to open a three-game series Tuesday. Grudzielanek will have either X-rays or an MRI today.

Left fielder Gary Sheffield was scratched because of a sprained left index finger. He had trouble gripping a bat, but Tracy said his availability was day to day. Also, Chris Donnels was scratched from the start at third base because of lingering stiffness in his neck, the result of him diving for a ball Tuesday.

In their places, Jeff Reboulet started at second and batted second. Hiram Bocachica, originally slated to play second, started at third and batted sixth and Marquis Grissom started in left field and hit seventh.

Also, reliever Mike Fetters' availability is in question because he's suffering from bronchitis and a sinus infection, Tracy said.

--And another injury: Bench coach Jim Riggleman was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center after he was struck in the face with a fungo during batting practice. Riggleman had surgery performed by Dr. John Rehm to repair a fractured nose.

Third-base coach Glenn Hoffman was hitting grounders next to the batting cage when Riggleman reached for something. Hoffman inadvertently hit Riggleman in the face.

--Roster move: After the game, the expected move was made as Phil Hiatt was sent to Triple-A Las Vegas and Dave Hansen was activated.

DODGERS vs. PHILADELPHIA

Time: 7:10 p.m., at Dodger Stadium.

TV/Radio: 1150-AM, 1330-AM (Spanish).

Matchup: RH Luke Prokopec (2-0, 1.98 ERA) tries for his third impressive performance in a row, against the surprising first-place Phillies. Prokopec has allowed 10 hits in 13 2/3 innings and has 12 strikeouts. Entering the season, he was 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA and he's yet to face the Phillies. RH Amaury Telemaco (2-0, 2.91) is one of the reasons the Phillies are off to a strong start. After appearing twice out of the bullpen, Telemaco is 1-0 with a 3.45 ERA in three starts. Saturday - Dodgers RH Darren Dreifort (1-1, 4.88) vs. Phillies LH Bruce Chen (1-1, 2.42); Sunday - Dodgers RH Chan Ho Park (2-2, 4.13) vs. Phillies LH Randy Wolf (1-3, 6.87).

- Brian Dohn

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DODGERS vs. PHILADELPHIA (see text)
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 27, 2001
Words:832
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