Notes: Tomko to start Sunday
Penny pushed back due to blister; Wolf won't return soon
SAN FRANCISCO -- Grady Little was diplomatic, but Brett Tomko was brutally honest when asked if he was surprised to be named the Dodgers' starting pitcher for Sunday's game against the Giants."Somebody has to start with Randy [Wolf] on the [disabled list]," said Tomko. So the somebody will be Tomko, despite a 1-7 record and 6.18 ERA. After losing his job as the fifth starter in May, then abused by opposing hitters as a long reliever, Tomko nonetheless got the nod over Eric Stults. The spot belongs to Wolf, who is eligible to return from a sore shoulder Thursday -- but won't. Wolf said he's progressing nicely, but he hasn't even picked up a ball yet, so he figures to miss several more starts. Little would commit only one of those starts to Tomko, who is at a crossroads in his Dodgers career. He's now a utility pitcher and clearly not happy about it, to the extent that he said his agent recently spoke with general manager Ned Colletti about the situation. "It's been a miserable month," Tomko said. "I'm trying to weather the storm." Tomko has been scored upon in his last five relief appearances. The original plan was to have Tomko start Monday, but Little indicated he didn't want to subject Tomko to the relentless booing he's heard from the home folks, so he moved Tomko up to Sunday. It says a lot that Tomko might feel more comfortable pitching in the backyard of his former team -- and the Dodgers' archrivals -- than in front of home fans. The unspoken reasoning for starting Tomko on Sunday is the calendar. The trade deadline is a little more than two weeks away. If Tomko cannot give the Dodgers a competitive start, they're likely to step up efforts to find someone who can. Little put it more gently. "We know this guy started most of his career and if we get him into that comfort zone, maybe we'll get him off and running the way he's capable of doing," said Little, who estimated Tomko might be capable of five innings and 75-85 pitches, even though he hasn't come close to that since a 5 1/3-inning start May 21. Tomko conceded the change in roles and lack of success has weighed on him. "I might have lost confidence," he said. "To go from a starter to mop-up guy, it doesn't feel great. Nobody wants to be a long guy in the bullpen. It takes a toll. It's not that I feel I can't get people out. I like starting. It's what I want to do next year. I have thought about next year. Being a long guy is not what I want to do." Tomko said he knows this year will impact his value next year, when the Dodgers can buy out a $4.5 million salary for $1 million and cut him loose. He also said he knows Sunday could be a showcase for any other club that might want him. Penny delayed: Brad Penny pitched an inning in the All-Star Game despite a finger blister and it caused the Dodgers to juggle their rotation again. Penny was originally scheduled to start Saturday's game, but because of the blister, the club announced just before Friday night's game that Penny would be pushed back to Monday night and Derek Lowe would start Saturday. Although Penny pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the All-Star Game, his last start of the first half for the Dodgers was his shortest, lasting only four innings while allowing six runs to the Braves on July 5. Lowe will be pitching on six days' rest because of the All-Star break. Wolf healing slowly: Wolf, who received an injection July 5, still has some inflammation from a shoulder impingement and hasn't thrown since a July 3 start against Atlanta. He won't even begin tossing for several more days, so he's unlikely to start a Major League game for weeks. "The big picture is to make sure I'm right for the last 2 1/2 months," said Wolf, indicating he won't rush back. "It feels 90 to 95 percent where it should be. It's important now to get [inflammation] out of there completely. If it's kind of lingering and you try to battle through it, it's going to come back. The competitive part wants to get back, but the brain kicks in. You can't think about making that [Thursday] deadline or you're rushing against yourself." Wolf said he didn't know if he would need a rehab start, although that would be normal for this type of injury. Considering bullpen sessions, simulated games and a rehab assignment, Wolf could go about a month between Major League starts if there are no setbacks. Injuries: Little said Matt Kemp (tight hamstring) and Tony Abreu (abdominal muscle) had healed during the break and had no restrictions. Hong-Chih Kuo, disabled with a sore elbow, has resumed tossing but he's weeks away from competitive action. Minor Leaguers of the Month: Outfielder Delwyn Young and right-handed pitcher Jonathan Meloan were named organization Minor League Player and Pitcher for the month of June. Young, 25, batted .400 (46-for-115) with seven homers and 28 RBIs in 27 games for Triple-A Las Vegas. Meloan, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Wednesday, posted a 0.68 ERA with nine saves in 11 appearances for Double-A Jacksonville. In 13 1/3 innings, Meloan struck out 22 batters and walked just two while holding Southern League opponents to a .130 batting average. In other Minor League news, shortstop Chin-Lung Hu, MVP at the Futures Game, was promoted from Jacksonville to Las Vegas and homered in his first game for the 51s. Blake DeWitt and James McDonald were promoted from Class A Inland Empire to Jacksonville. Journeyman pitcher Harold Eckert was released from Las Vegas. Infielder Sergio Garcia was suspended 100 games as a repeat offender for using performance-enhancing drugs. Hail to the Chief: Hall of Fame manager and special advisor to the chairman Tommy Lasorda, director of community relations and former Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe and senior vice president of public affairs Howard Sunkin will lead a contingent from a Los Angeles Little League to play a T-ball game on the South Lawn of the White House at the invitation of the White House and the Little League Foundation on Sunday. No Little family: Little welcomed his third grandson into the world Thursday as Jace Dalton Little was born. Jace joins Braden and Luke as sons of Little's own son, Eric, and his wife, Toni. Coming up: Lowe (8-8, 3.12) opposes Matt Morris (7-5, 3.35) on Saturday at 12:55 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.