Notes: Mueller holding out hope

Notes: Mueller holding out hope

LOS ANGELES -- Bill Mueller flew in from his Arizona home to consult with Dr. Frank Jobe and the Dodgers' medical staff, but there's little about the condition of his right knee that he doesn't already know.

It's bad. And even more discouraging, there's no real reason to believe it will improve. He has no cartilage, exposing the bone to contact and resulting in degenerative arthritis.

"I'm bone on bone in three different places," said the 35-year-old Mueller, who underwent a third operation on the knee in May. "Right now, I can't even walk on it without it swelling up."

Noted Vail knee specialist Dr. Richard Steadman told Mueller that swelling is his "biggest enemy." Mueller said he's turned to pool therapy, because the fluid resistance allows the muscles to exercise without irritating the affected bone.

But he concedes the lack of improvement, which has put his career at risk, has left him with little more than hope.

"I've been hoping for anything that helps," he said.

Among the last-ditch alternatives available is cartilage transplant, but Mueller said the success rate is not favorable. Derek Thompson, who pitched for the Dodgers last year before blowing out his elbow, had cadaver cartilage transplanted into his knee five years ago.

Mueller was hitting .329 through the first three weeks of the season before re-injuring his knee. He tried to play through the pain for two weeks, went 4-for-37, and then submitted to the operation. He is in the first year of a two-year, $9.5 million contract.

Lineup shuffle: Manager Grady Little dropped struggling outfielder J.D. Drew out of the cleanup spot and flipped him with No. 5 hitter Jeff Kent. Little said there was a combination of contributing factors in the decision, including the recent performance of the two players and the presence of left-handed starting pitchers Oliver Perez and Zach Duke on the mound for the Pirates on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

"Kent's been swinging the bat very well right now," Little said.

Since returning from a bruised left wrist that put him on the disabled list, Kent is hitting .314 with a .514 slugging percentage, although he has no home runs and only two RBIs in 35 at-bats. Although Drew leads the Dodgers with nine homers and 44 RBIs -- and he had two hits Thursday night -- his batting average had dropped 25 points since he sat out the June 11 game in Colorado with a tight hamstring.

On the season, Drew's on-base percentage against right-handed pitching is about 100 points higher than it is against left-handed pitching, the difference coming mostly from a lack of walks when facing lefties.

Izturis' versatility: Little said that while Cesar Izturis will see most of his playing time at third base, the presence of the Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop will result in more days off for Rafael Furcal. Little said Izturis would probably play shortstop Saturday night, with Olmedo Saenz playing third base.

What Tracy knows: Little downplayed the importance of opposing manager Jim Tracy's familiarity with the Dodgers' roster.

"With the turnover we've had even since the first time we played them [in April in Pittsburgh], there's a lot of players here he doesn't know," Little said of Tracy, who spent five years as Los Angeles' skipper.

Of the 25 active Dodgers, Tracy managed 10.

Lasorda inducted: Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda will be inducted in the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame on Saturday. Lasorda pitched for the Montreal Royals, Brooklyn's Triple-A affiliate, for parts of nine seasons, and he won a club-record 107 games and the International League MVP award.

WIN-ing event: Dodgers WIN is hosting the second annual Girls Softball Clinic presented by Toyota on Saturday. Girls ages 6-14 will learn the fundamentals of baseball and softball in this interactive clinic from current and former Dodgers players, as well as professional softball players.

The clinic will feature an appearance by Dodgers vice chairman and president Jamie McCourt, along with instruction from current Dodgers Eric Gagné, Kent, coach Manny Mota and former Dodger "Sweet" Lou Johnson. Some of the Dodgers' wives will also be on hand to help out.

WIN provides women of all ages and backgrounds with unique opportunities to learn about baseball, participate in the unparalleled Dodger Stadium experience, and contribute to the community and the national pastime in innovative and meaningful ways.

Coming up: Aaron Sele (3-2, 3.09 ERA) opposes Duke (5-6, 6.10 ERA) on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. PT in the second game of the three-game series with the Pirates.

At 5:15 p.m., the 48th annual Hollywood Stars Game will be played. Among the celebrities scheduled to participate are Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Jimmy Kimmel, James Van Der Beek, Mia Hamm, Lou Gossett Jr., Carlos Mencia, Michael Clarke Duncan and Corbin Bernsen.

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