Joe Torre rests several starters

HOUSTON -- Taking advantage of the last game the Los Angeles Dodgers will play for several days that doesn't involve a playoff contender, manager Joe Torre rested several of his regulars -- Casey Blake, shortstop Rafael Furcal, center fielder Matt Kemp and catcher Rod Barajas for the second day in a row and left fielder Scott Podsednik for the third day in a row.

In their places, respectively, were Russ Mitchell, Chin-lung Hu, Trent Oeltjen, Brad Ausmus and the sizzling Jay Gibbons.

Torre plans to play most of his regulars for the next nine games, all of which are against the San Francisco Giants, Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres. The Dodgers also play a midweek, three-game series at Colorado Sept. 27-29, sandwiched between three-game series against the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks on the final two weekends of the season.

Ausmus starts final game in Houston

Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus isn't really the sentimental type, but he was appreciative of the gesture Torre made of starting him Sunday against the Astros, the last game the Dodgers will play at Minute Maid Park before Ausmus retires after the season. Ausmus spent 10 of his 17 major league seasons with the Astros, during which he won all three of his Gold Gloves.

"It'll be nice to play here one more time," Ausmus said. "But I still have a job to do. I'm here to win."
Ausmus, who lives near San Diego and spent his first four seasons with the Padres, conceded that he will probably always be remembered primarily as a member of the Astros.

"Looking back on my career, that is probably the team I will identify with the most," he said. "We went to the playoffs a number of times, and that was a bright spot in my career."

Ely could take ailing Padilla's spot

If Vicente Padilla, who was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday with a recurrence of the disc problem in his neck that landed him on the disabled list recently, isn't able to pitch again this season, Torre said rookie John Ely will take Padilla's spot on a regular basis after Ely pitched six strong innings on Saturday night against the Astros.

However, Torre also said that in that case, he will skip that spot in the rotation whenever off-days allow -- the Dodgers are off Monday and on Sept. 20 and 30, meaning a fifth starter will be needed only twice the rest of the way -- something he hadn't planned on doing before Padilla got hurt again.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. Follow him on Twitter.