Notes: Abreu in medical limbo

Notes: Abreu in medical limbo

LOS ANGELES -- Tuesday's deadline trade of Wilson Betemit led to the unexpected promotion of Delwyn Young to fill the role of utilityman and switch-hitting pinch-hitter.

But it also got Tony Abreu fans to wonder, what the heck is going on?

Remember Abreu? For nearly two months, he held down a utility role and made an impact with a .288 batting average. But when the club decided to go with 12 pitchers last month, Abreu was optioned back to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Abreu, 22 and a natural infielder, would have been the choice to replace Betemit on Tuesday, except that Abreu hasn't played in a game since being optioned July 18. Abreu missed a couple of games with the Dodgers before he was optioned because of what was believed to be a lower abdominal strain. Although he had a pinch-single the night before being sent down and was 3-for-6 his last week with the Dodgers, Abreu after the demotion complained the injury still bothered him and he hasn't felt healthy enough to play since.

Dodgers doctors have performed a battery of tests without a specific diagnosis, and next week Abreu is scheduled to see a local specialist in the field of sports hernias.

By definition, a sports hernia is a weakening of the muscles or tendons of the lower abdominal wall. But it's not easily diagnosed or treated.

"It's a diagnosis of exclusion," said Dodgers trainer Stan Conte. "They rule out all other causes. It's by the process of elimination. You play if you can. If you can't play, you rest. If rest doesn't help, sometimes surgery in the offseason is an option."

Conte said two Major League players with the injury that he's come across avoided the surgery, which requires a two-month rehabilitation. But surgery is no guarantee that the problem will be solved, and without it, predicting recovery is difficult because there is no treatment proved effective.

"It's a little bit of a black hole," he said.

Abreu not only isn't in the Major Leagues now, his absence from the Las Vegas lineup removes a potential trade chip for management and clouds his Dodgers future. It has been assumed that Abreu is the heir apparent to 39-year-old second baseman Jeff Kent, who has not announced whether he will continue playing after this year. The Dodgers have a 2008 option on Kent for $7 million or a $500,000 buyout.

Andy LaRoche, who has slugged 13 home runs in the last 26 games, is most likely the next infielder to be promoted.

"The very minute we feel he can be a factor in winning games on a daily basis, he'll be here," manager Grady Little said of LaRoche.

Lowe ready: Derek Lowe said he was ready for his Saturday start after surviving a session of fielding practice Thursday. Lowe took grounders at the mound, charged bunts and covered first base without feeling any pain in the left groin area.

"It felt good and I'm glad I don't have to talk about it anymore," said Lowe, who had to skip a start with what was diagnosed as hip irritation. "I just had to make sure it didn't hurt. It was a peace of mind thing."

No Kent again: Kent was bouncing around before Thursday's game, taking batting and fielding practice, but he still missed his third consecutive start with a strained hamstring. Kent is likely to start Friday night.

"He's getting better," said Little. "We'll hold him out another day and make sure we're at the point where we won't make it worse if he plays. We won't put him out there with any chance of reinjuring it. I'll give up a couple games without him to save that risk."

Martin's record: Russell Martin's 18th stolen base Wednesday night tied Con Daily for the single-season franchise record for a catcher, set in 1892.

"I don't play to break records," said Martin, "but it's definitely cool to make history."

Clinic time: Bank of America and the Dodgers Dream Foundation will host a Play Ball L.A. Clinic at Dodger Stadium on Friday with Rafael Furcal and Young from 12-2 p.m. On Saturday, another Play Ball L.A. Clinic will take place at Challengers Little League in El Segundo with Dodgers Olmedo Saenz and Andre Ethier from 12-2 p.m.

Coming up: Chad Billingsley (7-1, 3.65 ERA) opposes Doug Davis (7-10, 4.11) and the Diamondbacks on Friday night.

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