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Belisario close to returning to Dodgers

Belisario close to returning

ATLANTA -- The Dodgers' strategy in the acquisition of closer George Sherrill and the pursuit of Padres closer Heath Bell is, in lieu of landing a starting pitcher in a thin market, address a perceived weakness from the opposite direction.

Over the first half of the season, Dodgers starters haven't pitched deep into games. It can be debated whether the current starters can't get there, or aren't allowed to by manager Joe Torre because he senses each pitcher has only so many bullets in him each start.

But the result is stress on the bullpen. And the response has been to load up on relievers.

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"The thing about it, you know we've talked about getting a starter and we weren't able to do that," said Torre. "So it certainly helps when you've got depth in the bullpen, and a variety of short and long. You allow yourself to rest guys in between. It's a good situation."

And the situation might get even better. Rookie workhorse Ronald Belisario, one of the Dodgers' most effective and utilized arms until he was sidelined by a sore elbow, appears close to returning. He threw a 20-pitch simulated game Saturday, and Torre said Belisario is likely to start a rehab assignment next week.

Belisario said that's unnecessary.

"I'm ready for games now," said Belisario, who spent 10 years in the Minor Leagues waiting for his chance and has no urge to wait, even temporarily. "My arm feels fine, no problem. All my pitches, no problem. I'm good to go. I told them I'm ready."

Juan Pierre, who hit off Belisario, couldn't argue.

"He's nasty," said Pierre. "It's the first time I've been on the other end. I'm sure he's more dangerous to right-handers, but it looked like he was good. If his arm isn't hurting, he's ready to come back."

If Belisario returns healthy, and Hong-Chih Kuo remains healthy, they join Ramon Troncoso to set up for closer Jonathan Broxton and Sherrill. Add to that middle man Guillermo Mota and long man Jeff Weaver, and there won't even be room for either rookies James McDonald (much improved his past two appearances) or Scott Elbert, or both. Cory Wade pitched a scoreless rehab inning Friday night and is just about ready. The Dodgers are currently carrying 13 pitchers.

"We have to make some decisions," said Torre. "We've got 13 pitchers, and I'm not sure I want to stay there. I don't know how we're going to do that."

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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