Notes: Drew's knee flares up

Notes: Drew's knee flares up

SAN DIEGO - Now J.D. Drew is hurt.

An outfielder with a history of knee problems, Drew, who signed a $55 million contract over the winter, had an MRI on his left knee Wednesday, and the diagnosis was chondromalacia, a chipping of cartilage on the underside of the kneecap that prevents the knee from sliding smoothly over the lower part of the thigh bone.

As bad as it sounds, trainer Stan Johnston said Drew is considered day-to-day. He was not in the lineup Wednesday night and figures to take a couple days off to reduce the inflammation.

Drew has a history of patellar tendinitis in the right knee, which required surgery after the 2002 season, and he said he was "scared to death" of a repeat because the discomfort was in the same area of the "good" knee. He said he felt a "huge sigh of relief" when told his patellar tendon was intact.

However, his current condition has become progressively worse, requiring daily treatment. He said he first noticed a problem after jamming his knee on a head-first dive in Arizona more than three weeks ago.

"Now it's swelling after games and been kind of a big nuisance," he said. "It feels like I get stuck with an ice pick when my foot lands on the ground. It started with a sharp pain every 40 steps, then every 25 steps, then 15, now every time.

"When I jog off the field, I don't know if you can see, but I feel like I'm limping. At first, I could manage it. Now it's crossing the line, getting out of control and getting scary. It's getting to the point where it could jeopardize long-term."

Coincidentally or not, Drew's knee began acting up right around the time he took over center field for the injured Milton Bradley. Ironically, when he joined the club, Drew said he'd prefer to play center field because it put less stress on his repaired knee than right field.

Typically, there is no easy solution to his current condition, and surgery would be a last resort. More common is a strenuous exercise program to strengthen the quad muscles, reduce instability and manage the pain while the inflammation is treated conservatively.

"My knee feels loose and weak," he said. "In Chicago, I felt like I'm getting off my back leg too soon. I don't want to get in a bad habit like that."

Drew has played in 66 of the club's 70 games, batting .272 with 12 home runs and 31 RBIs. General manager Paul DePodesta said Drew has been "an absolute warrior" who has been "carrying a significant load" while outfielders Bradley, Jayson Werth and Ricky Ledee have missed considerable playing time with injuries.

DePodesta said Drew's situation could hasten returning the roster to 11 pitchers and adding an outfielder, most likely Cody Ross from Triple-A Las Vegas. DePodesta indicated the club was probably heading in that direction anyway, as a designated hitter will be needed for the weekend series in Anaheim.

Left-hander Derek Thompson, who has not pitched since his third start June 7, would likely be sent down to start regularly. Thompson has remained with the Major League club primarily as an emergency backup in the event of a short start by fellow rookie D.J. Houlton or Elmer Dessens.

The Ja(y)son outfield: With Drew and Bradley out, the starting outfield Wednesday night had Werth (.242) in right field, rookie Jason Repko (.202) in center and Jason Grabowski (.197) in left. Combined they have nine home runs and 28 RBIs.

Manager Jim Tracy moved Werth into Drew's No. 3 spot of the batting order and played Olmedo Saenz for the third consecutive game, batting fifth to protect clean-up hitter Jeff Kent.

Hoffman sent home: Third-base coach Glenn Hoffman, still feeling the effects of a concussion eight days after being struck in the ear by a line drive during batting practice, was sent back to the hotel before Wednesday night's game feeling ill. Bench coach Jim Lett continued to fill in for Hoffman at third base.

All-Star Futures Game: Jacksonville third baseman Adam LaRoche and catcher Russell Martin of Canada were named to the U.S. and International teams, respectively, for the July 10 XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game.

Worth watching: A reliever who could wind up in the Major Leagues is right-hander Beau Dannemiller, who was just promoted from Double-A Jacksonville to Las Vegas. The 25-year-old Rule 5 Draft pick from Colorado pitched one perfect inning of Spring Training with the big-league club.

Another signing: The Dodgers signed fifth-round pick John Meloan, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Arizona.

Coming up: Elmer Dessens, practically unhittable against the White Sox in his return from the disabled list, starts the series finale Thursday for the Dodgers. Batters are hitting only .157 against Dessens in three starts this year.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.