LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre has a way of talking around certain issues without really saying anything definitive, and he used that skill in a big way when pressed Thursday on the matter of the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
Veteran Ramon Ortiz has been less than dazzling during the two starts he has made in that spot, and he was charged with five earned runs in just 3 1/3 innings in Wednesday night's loss to the Padres.
What Torre seemed to be hinting at was a couple of things.
First, the next time the spot comes up, the player who fills it probably will be rookie Carlos Monasterios, who has a 1.90 ERA in one start and 11 relief appearances but who has slipped into a long relief role that sometimes results in him going several days without pitching in a game. Monasterios had gone seven consecutive days without being called upon before he turned in three shutout innings Wednesday, holding the Padres to only one hit.
It was Monasterios' longest relief appearance of the season, and his 55 pitches were the most he has thrown in any game other than his lone start, when he threw 73 on May 1 against Pittsburgh but lasted only four innings.
"We were impressed with Monasterios [Wednesday] night," Torre said. "The only issue with him is you don't get the pitch count you get with Ramon. If we do continue with five starters for the next go-round, we would have to look at it."
Of course, with Ortiz in the bullpen for long-relief duty, Monasterios' presumed inability to throw, say, 100 pitches would be less of a concern.
The other thing Torre seemed to say but stopped short of actually saying was that the Dodgers will stay with the five-man rotation even with an off day on Monday. That means the fifth spot will come up Tuesday night, when the Dodgers open a three-game series at Chicago, rather than the fifth day after the off day, which would be May 29 at Colorado.
That would give the other four starters five full days between starts, something that also happened when Torre opted not to skip the fifth spot in the rotation following the Dodgers' last off day May 13.
Hough helps Haeger
Another former fifth starter whom you may not have heard the last of is knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, who made his second rehabilitation start for high Single-A Inland Empire at High Desert on Wednesday night, throwing five innings and giving up three runs (one earned).
Haeger, who is on the 15-day disabled list with what is officially being termed "plantar fasciitis" in his foot, was sent to the California League so he could work closely with Inland Empire pitching coach and former Dodgers knuckleballer Charlie Hough. Haeger said as soon as he arrived, Hough watched some video and spotted a mechanical flaw with Haeger's legs and quickly corrected it.
Haeger, who was 0-4 with an 8.49 ERA for the Dodgers before going on the DL, said he felt better almost immediately.
"It has been good," he said. "I think if I get my lower half right, it will make my arm action a little better."
Torre said Haeger will make at least one more rehab start for the 66ers, and Haeger said that probably will come Sunday at Rancho Cucamonga. He will be pitching on three days' rest after throwing about 90 pitches Wednesday, but knuckleball pitchers recover much more quickly than regular pitchers.
Minor league rehabs for pitchers are limited to 30 days, so the Dodgers will have to do something with Haeger by June 14. But if Monday's starter, presumably Monasterios, struggles, it is conceivable if Haeger continues to show progress Sunday, he could get the call the next time the Dodgers need a fifth starter on May 30 at Colorado.
More on Furcal
Despite Rafael Furcal saying he probably won't need any more minor-league rehabilitation games before coming off the disabled list, Torre said he was still leaning on having Furcal play at least one such game just to make sure Furcal's left hamstring can withstand the rigors of playing shortstop.
That game probably won't happen before Saturday because Torre and trainer Stan Conte want Furcal to be able to run full speed without pain for three consecutive days, something he did for the first time Wednesday.
Pitching prospect catches on
Kenley Jansen, who went from a lightly regarded, minor league catcher to one of the organization's top reliever prospects when he agreed last summer to make the conversion, was promoted last weekend from Inland Empire to Double-A Chattanooga, where he hasn't given up an earned run in either of his first two appearances.
Jansen, who throws a mid-90s fastball, had a 1.50 ERA in 11 appearances for Inland Empire. He is on the Dodgers' 40-man roster, but a big league callup this season would seem to be highly unlikely unless it comes during the September roster expansion.
Jansen, a native of Curacao, was the starting catcher for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. But when it came to his status with the Dodgers, he never ranked that high on the pecking order of minor league catchers. Club officials had tried for years to convince him to give up catching for pitching.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.