Dodgers' Jones out 4-6 weeks after going on DL for first time in career

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers placed center fielder Andruw Jones on the 15-day disabled list Saturday because of an injured right knee that will require surgery and sideline him at least 4 to 6 weeks.

Jones, who signed a two-year, $36.2 million contract last winter after 12 good seasons with the Atlanta Braves, has struggled in Los Angeles. The five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove winner is hitting .165 with two homers and seven RBIs in 43 games.

Now the club is going to invest 4-6 weeks of recuperatory time in the 31-year-old slugger, who will be on the DL for the first time in his career. Dr. Neal Elahrache, the Dodgers' orthopedic surgeon, will perform the surgery on Tuesday at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic.

"He was really determined not to have it done, but surgery is the best thing," general manager Ned Colletti said. "It will not only help him physically, but hopefully it'll help his game. Obviously through seven weeks it's been disappointing for him and for everyone involved."

Jones underwent an MRI exam earlier this week, revealing a partially torn cartilage in his knee. He decided to rest it a few days, then returned to action on Friday night as a pinch hitter and struck out with runners at the corners in the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to St. Louis.

"He needs to get his knee fixed and get back to the player he's been," Colletti said. "After last night, trying it one more time, he called Stan [trainer Stan Conti] and said, 'I've got to get this fixed.' But give him credit. He wanted to play. He was hampered by it, but there wasn't a lot of swelling or irritation to it until five or six days ago."

Somehow, Colletti has found a silver lining in Jones' injury.

"I'll say this about Andruw Jones: He has not hit near what anybody expected him to, including himself. But I'm very much assured that his presence here has made [Andre] Ethier and [Matt] Kemp better players -- and even Juan Pierre is more selective," Colletti said. "Andruw's presence has created a competition that we hoped it would and give our young players a chance to be as good as they can be. I don't think there's any debate about that."

To replace Jones on the roster, the Dodgers purchased the contract of former Minnesota Twins utilityman Terry Tiffee from Triple-A Las Vegas and placed third baseman Nomar Garciaparra on the 60-day DL. Garciaparra, on the DL for the second time this season, has been sidelined since April 26 with a left calf strain.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers purchased the contract of prospect Clayton Kershaw from Double-A Jacksonville, and the 20-year-old left-hander is expected to make his big league debut in the finale of a three-game series against St. Louis.

"I was beside myself a little bit. Anytime you get to hear those words: 'You're headed up to L.A.,' it's unbelievable," Kershaw said Saturday in the dugout before batting practice. "It's what you've dreamed about since you were a little kid. It's what you worked so hard for in the minor leagues.

"It's awesome to get the first start here. There's no better place to make your major league debut than Dodger Stadium. I'm just ready to go for tomorrow. I'm ready to get started."

Kershaw, the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Highland Park High School in Dallas, had an opportunity to pitch on the mound at Chavez Ravine in the Dodgers' final exhibition game against the World Series champion Boston Red Sox. He pitched four scoreless innings of relief and struck out six.

"It's really easy to get acclimated here because I got to know most of the guys all through spring training, so I'm pretty comfortable around all these guys -- which is really great for me," Kershaw said. "I'm not too nervous. I know what it's going to be like. It's going to be a different atmosphere, so I'm prepared for that."

Manager Joe Torre, who saw Kershaw pitch a handful of times during the spring despite the team's trip to China, said Kershaw won't go into Sunday's game with a designated pitch count because he already has thrown 97 in a game in the minors.

Torre and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had planned to call him up to pitch on Tuesday, but decided instead to give Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda an extra day's rest because they both pitched deep into the game their last time out.

"Kershaw's been on our radar, obviously," Torre said. "He got everybody's attention in spring training, and even before that. I was so curious to meet this kid because his name is the one I've probably heard more than anybody else's, and he showed us something in the spring. My most vivid memory was that the first pitch he threw was a home run."

That was the only run Kershaw allowed in 14 innings during spring training while striking out 19. In Jacksonville, he was 0-3 with a 2.28 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 43 1/3 innings.

The Dodgers designated Esteban Loaiza for assignment after activating the right-hander from the 15-day disabled list, and optioned right-handed reliever Yhency Brazoban to Triple-A Las Vegas.

The 36-year-old Loaiza was 1-2 with a 5.63 ERA in seven games this year with three starts. He was placed on the disabled list May 7 retroactive to three days earlier because of tightness in his shoulder blade.

The Dodgers claimed Loaiza on waivers from Oakland last August, assuming the $1.17 million he was owned for the rest of 2007 as well as his $6.5 million salary for this year. Loaiza has a $7.5 million club option for next year with a $375,000 buyout.

The Dodgers have 10 days to trade Loaiza, place him on unconditional release waivers or send him outright to the minors.

Los Angeles has been without a permanent fifth starter all season. They began a streak of 17 games in as many days Friday, meaning they'll need a fifth starter three times before their next day off June 9.

Brazoban appeared in two games for the Dodgers since being recalled from Las Vegas earlier this month, allowing two runs in three innings.