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Notes: Lofton placed on 15-day DL

Notes: Lofton placed on 15-day DL

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ANAHEIM -- New management team or not, the Dodgers are starting out 2006 a lot like 2005: injured.

They had to put 38-year-old center fielder Kenny Lofton on the 15-day disabled list Saturday night with a strained calf muscle suffered Thursday in Las Vegas, opening up a roster spot for Cody Ross, who was out of options.

Lofton joined holdover injured players Jayson Werth and Cesar Izturis on the disabled list, with $39 million shortstop Rafael Furcal having yet to play since straining his lower back Tuesday.

The roster move was revealed by manager Grady Little after Saturday night's scoreless tie with the Angels. General manager Ned Colletti, briefing reporters during the game about the roster submitted to the Commissioner's Office, made no mention of Lofton, although Dodgers players were informed just before the game.

Lofton will be placed on the disabled list retroactive to Wednesday. He will be eligible to return April 14, when the Dodgers return home to play San Francisco.

Little said second-year player Jason Repko will be the Opening Day center fielder, but he had not decided who would bat second in Lofton's spot. Lofton also was the back-up leadoff hitter, so it is not clear who would lead off if Furcal also is unable to play Monday.

The loss of Lofton, signed to a $3.85 million contract, is a disturbing development for a club that had the league's second-highest total of days lost on the disabled list last year.

Lofton played in only 110 games with Philadelphia last year and underwent clean-up surgery on his left knee Oct. 21. He batted only .159 with one extra-base hit and no stolen bases this spring.

Meanwhile, Jose Cruz Jr. returned to the lineup Saturday night, while Furcal returned to baseball activity.

Cruz, recovering from a slight concussion and stiff neck and back, was able to play Saturday night, doubling off the right-field wall on the first pitch he saw from Kelvim Escobar in the first inning and was well enough to dive head-first into second base.

"It's getting better, little by little," said Cruz, who was injured trying to make a head-first diving catch Sunday. "My neck is still a little whiplashed."

Furcal, nursing a strained back, said he was "much better than before - 85 to 90 percent better." He was able to take batting practice and run in the outfield.

Roster deadline: Among the roster moves the Dodgers acknowledged were the placing of Werth on the disabled list and the optioning of catcher Russell Martin and infielder Oscar Robles to Triple-A Las Vegas. Werth has remained in Florida and will rejoin the club in Philadelphia next week.

The Dodgers did not announce the purchase of non-roster infielder Ramon Martinez, although he is expected to start the season in the Major Leagues.

Sele Vegas-bound: Veteran pitcher Aaron Sele accepted an assignment to Triple-A Las Vegas, at least temporarily.

Sele and Colletti said details had not been worked out on how long Sele was willing to wait for a Major League promotion or whether he would be granted free agency if another club was willing to give him a Major League job.

Sele said he made the decision after a discussion with his family, which lives in Orange County.

"Las Vegas is so close I'll be able to see my family," said Sele. "One of the main reasons is my desire to compete for a winning team and this team is going to compete to win and that's what it's all about for me at this point in my career."

Sele signed a Minor League contract with the idea of competing for the fifth starter spot, only for the Dodgers then to trade for Jae Seo, who was given that role. He has a 4.12 ERA in 19 2/3 innings this spring with 13 strikeouts and three walks.

Gonzalez returns: The Seattle Mariners returned Rule 5 selection Luis Gonzalez to the Dodgers Friday.

Gonzalez, 23, was drafted from the Dodgers by the Colorado Rockies, who sold him to the Mariners. As a Rule 5 pick, he had to remain with the Mariners the entire 2006 season or be offered back to the Dodgers for half of his original $50,000 selection price.

Gonzalez was 0-1 with an 8.18 ERA (10 earned runs in 11 innings) this spring. Last year, he was 7-2 with a 2.21 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville, then 0-1 with a 9.31 ERA at Triple-A Las Vegas. He was the Dodgers' 11th-round pick in the 2001 First-Year Player Draft after playing outfield in high school. He will likely pitch out of the bullpen at Las Vegas in 2006.

Left-handed pitcher Mike Megrew, also lost by the Dodgers in the Rule 5 draft to the Florida Marlins, was placed on the 15-day disabled list and will remain with the Marlins for the time being. Megrew pitched only nine innings last year while recuperating from Tommy John elbow reconstruction.

Minor deal: The Dodgers acquired 27-year-old middle infielder Wilson Valdez from the Kansas City Royals for 21-year-old Minor League pitcher Jarod Plummer. Valdez hit .517 (15-for-29) this spring, but was reassigned last week. The right-handed Plummer is 14-21 with a 3.57 ERA in four Minor League seasons.

Valdez has appeared in the Major Leagues over the past two seasons with the White Sox, Padres and Mariners. He likely will be insurance at Triple-A.

Coming up: In the Freeway Series finale Sunday in Anaheim, Brett Tomko starts for the Dodgers against Ervin Santana with first pitch at 12:05 p.m. PT.

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

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