Blake returns to lineup for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake returned to the starting lineup Tuesday night against the St. Louis Cardinals after missing the previous five games because of back spasms.

He went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Dodgers' 1-0 win.

Blake, who entered hitting .275 with seven homers, 27 RBIs and a .343 on-base percentage, actually told manager Joe Torre on the way off the field after Thursday night's win over the Cardinals that he was ready to go.

"He said, 'Tomorrow?' and I said, 'Tomorrow?' "' Torre said. "I double checked with [trainer] Stan [Conte], so we should be fine."

The Dodgers came close to putting Blake on the 15-day disabled list in the days after he injured himself while taking ground balls during batting practice before Thursday night's game with the Atlanta Braves. But his back got steadily better during the weekend.

More draft picks

The Dodgers' second-day draft haul included James Baldwin III, the son of former Dodgers pitcher James Baldwin, who went 3-6 with a 4.20 ERA in 12 starts for them after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox at the 2001 trading deadline. The team took the younger Baldwin, a center fielder out of Pinecrest (N.C.) High School, with its fourth-round pick.

The Dodgers drafted McKinney (Texas) High School right-hander Zach Lee with their first-round pick Monday, but it is questionable whether they can sign Lee because he has signed a letter of intent to play quarterback for Louisiana State University.

The club began the second day of the draft by taking another high-school right-hander, Ralston Cash from Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Ga. The Dodgers made LSU center fielder Leon Landry their third-round pick and took his LSU teammate, left fielder Michael Dean, with their eighth-round selection.

Jacob Lemmerman, a shortstop from Duke University, rounded out the Dodgers' top five picks.

Sherrill activated

As expected the Dodgers activated left-handed reliever George Sherrill from the 15-day disabled list before the game and optioned rookie reliever Jon Link to Triple-A Albuquerque just one day after calling him up.

Sherrill, an All-Star closer for Baltimore last season before being traded to the Dodgers and moving into an eighth-inning setup role, is a long way from reclaiming even that much status. Before being sidelined because of mid-back tightness, he never really did find his mechanics and wound up posting a 7.36 ERA in 22 relief appearances.

Meanwhile, left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo and right-hander Ramon Troncoso have basically commandeered the eighth-inning role for themselves.

"We'll find something in the middle or get him an inning," Torre said of Sherrill. "We'll pick a spot and try to get him back in there. He just has to go out there -- and I'm sure he understands this -- and not concern himself with how pretty it looks. He just has to go out there and get it done."

Last start for Monasterios?

Torre said rookie Carlos Monasterios -- who is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts, 3-0 with a 2.27 overall and held the Cardinals to three runs and four hits over six innings Monday night -- probably has made his final start. Beginning on Thursday, the Dodgers have three off-days in a 12-day span, allowing them to skip the fifth starter, and veteran right-hander Vicente Padilla is due off the 15-day disabled list soon.

Padilla was scheduled to make his second minor league rehabilitation start Tuesday night for high Single-A Inland Empire, then move his rehab to Triple-A Albuquerque. He was tentatively set for two starts at Triple-A, but that could be cut to one if he is deemed ready to return, something that would line him up to pitch on June 19 at Boston -- the next time the Dodgers will need a fifth starter.

Torre also said that with the abundance of off-days, he likely will give rookie John Ely an extra day before each of his next couple of starts. Ely, who had been outstanding in his previous six starts, was not only rocked for four runs in five innings by the Braves on Sunday but also was far less efficient with his pitches than he had been, throwing 93 in five innings.

Leary Revisited

Mark Simon of ESPN Stats and Information has a nice story on former Dodgers pitcher Tim Leary, who when he was drafted by the New York Mets with the second overall pick in 1979 and first arrived in the majors with the Mets in 1981 was hyped in a manner similar to Washington's Stephen Strasburg as he made his major league debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.