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DODGERS NOTEBOOK: ROBLES DISPLACES IZTURIS.

Byline: Rich Hammond Staff Writer

Cesar Izturis returned to the Dodgers' lineup Friday night, but it didn't mean the end of Oscar Robles' joy ride atop the team's batting order. Robles has displaced an All-Star, at least temporarily.

Izturis, who missed 11 games with a strained right hamstring, hit in the No. 2 spot Friday, instead of the leadoff spot he occupied for the first three months of the season. Robles retained that spot in the order, which he filled during Izturis' absence and flourished, with 23 hits in 50 at-bats (.440).

``When a player ... performs in the manner he has, I'm not taking the game away from him,'' manager Jim Tracy said of Robles, who started at third base as Izturis reclaimed the shortstop position.

``When you have been given an opportunity and you have performed at the level (Robles) has performed at, it's up to me to find a place for him to play,'' Tracy said.

Robles' success isn't all that motivated Tracy's decision. Tracy also didn't want to thrust Izturis back into the crucial leadoff position after a two-week absence, and what went unspoken is that Izturis was in a major slump before his injury, while Robles has excelled and consistently given the team quality at-bats.

--Kent out: Jeff Kent was a late scratch from the lineup Friday, with Olmedo Saenz replacing him at first base. Kent had a ball glance off his left wrist in a defensive play at first base Thursday.

--Injury report: Jose Valentin, out since May 4 with torn knee ligaments, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Las Vegas on Sunday, barring any last-minute setbacks.

Valentin will have a final workout at Dodger Stadium this morning then join the Triple-A team.

Milton Bradley (torn finger ligament) was scheduled to make his first start and play five innings for Las Vegas on Friday. Wilson Alvarez (shoulder) threw one inning for Las Vegas on Thursday, but had command problems and will throw a bullpen session today in Los Angeles.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 16, 2005
Words:335
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