Dodgers send Ely back to minors

LOS ANGELES -- In keeping with their habit of making the easiest roster move possible whenever they need to open a spot, the pitching-starved Dodgers optioned rookie right-hander John Ely to Triple-A Albuquerque before Friday night's game against Colorado. The move cleared a spot for reliever Jeff Weaver, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list.

Ely, who turned in a dazzling performance Thursday night against Milwaukee, had minor league options remaining and was the only pitcher the Dodgers could have sent down without exposing anyone to the waiver wire or removing a player from the 40-man roster.

Another candidate was knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, but he was out of options and is scheduled to pitch Saturday night against the Rockies.

In his second major league start, Ely held the Brewers to a run and four hits over 6 2/3 innings, giving the Dodgers the shot in the arm they needed after regulars Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley had gotten bombed by the Brewers the two previous games.

Ely was making what was effectively a spot start in a starting rotation that is being held together with bailing wire. But apparently, the Dodgers front office figured it didn't want to risk losing, say, Ramon Ortiz.

The move was announced just after the Dodgers' clubhouse was closed to the media, so Ely wasn't available for comment. But he had said after Thursday's game he was prepared for the possibility he would be sent back.

"I'll go down there and keep throwing the ball," he said. "I have to keep my focus. I knew coming up here it wasn't definitely a permanent thing by any means. If they send me down, I'm going to compete and try to earn a spot and get back up here."

The Dodgers still need a starter for Tuesday night's game at Arizona, an assignment that now figures to fall to rookie Carlos Monasterios. The club could simply recall Ely again and have him make that start but only if another pitcher goes onto the disabled list. Otherwise, Ely must remain in the minors for at least 10 days before the Dodgers can bring him back.

"We needed to activate Weaver, and we need Charlie to start tomorrow," general manager Ned Colletti said. "So we are going to take it day by day. We have some guys who are a little banged up and finicky. Ely pitched great last night. This wasn't because of the way he pitched. It was because of our roster."

Torre speaks to Kemp

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he has spoken with center fielder Matt Kemp several times since Colletti criticized Kemp's play during a radio interview on April 27. Torre also said he didn't think Kemp was especially stung by Colletti's comments or that those comments were a contributing factor in Kemp's recent hitting slump.

"Matt is too tough a kid for that to affect him," Torre said. "I think he has been fighting himself a little bit. I talked to him last year, when he was attracting all that attention because of how good he is and how much he had accomplished, and that spinner is going to land on you a lot. I told him it may not be fair to be singled out, but that is what happens when you are a premier player on a ballclub.

"He is fine. I think the only problem he is having right now is trying to fight his way out of this thing."

Paul next to go down?

If the Dodgers continue their aforementioned habit of easy roster moves, outfielder Xavier Paul will be the guy sent back to Albuquerque on Saturday to clear a roster spot for Manny Ramirez, who is being activated from the 15-day DL.

Paul has appeared much more comfortable than he did in his first big-league stint last year, and he entered Friday hitting .269 with three doubles and a triple in Ramirez's absence.

"To me, this has been a great opportunity to try to prove to the coaching staff that I can come up here and play hard for you," Paul said. "I couldn't have asked for more, with the way they have been running me out there and playing me almost every night. I have been getting into games and getting opportunities to help the team. But with Manny coming back, there is nothing I can do to control what happens. That is something the front office has to decide.

"As a player, decisions that are made off the field are something you have to learn to accept. For me, if I have learned nothing else, that is the one thing I have learned to do over the years."

Furcal's next move

Dodgers shortstop Rafael Furcal said he will, as expected, begin a two-game rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday night at Colorado Springs. If that goes well, Furcal, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of a left-hamstring strain, will be activated in time for next Friday night's game at San Diego.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.