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LATimes on Lo Duca and crew


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Lo Duca and Friends Are Back


By Jason Reid, Times Staff Writer



CHICAGO ? Catcher Paul Lo Duca, reliever Guillermo Mota and outfielder Juan Encarnacion return to Dodger Stadium tonight in what the Dodgers said would be an emotional start to a three-game series against the Florida Marlins.


"It's going to be kind of weird for everybody," infielder-outfielder Shawn Green said. "It's always weird facing friends and guys you played with, and Dukie ? was such a big part of the team.


"Mota was here the last couple of years, he was obviously a key too, and Juan is a great guy. It's definitely going to be a little strange."


General Manager Paul DePodesta, in an attempt to bolster the roster for the playoffs, traded Lo Duca, a two-time All-Star and fan favorite, primary setup man Mota and everyday right fielder Encarnacion to Florida last month for pitcher Brad Penny, first baseman Hee-Seop Choi and minor league pitcher Bill Murphy.


The former Dodgers return to Chavez Ravine for a sold-out opener.


"It hasn't really hit me yet," Lo Duca said. "I'm sure when I get to the ballpark, it'll be different when I go to the other clubhouse. I've never been in the visitors' clubhouse there, so it's going to be a little weird ? probably a little emotional."


Lo Duca said he was touched by protesting Dodger fans after he was traded.


"It's neat. I'm not going to lie," Lo Duca said. "It's a great honor when you're ? accepted by your peers and your fans?. For [the fans] to do that, I'll always appreciate that."


The current Dodgers said they would always appreciate the contributions of Lo Duca, Mota and Encarnacion.


"I can't wait to see the fans' reaction with all the guys back," closer Eric Gagne said. "They better get a standing ovation for all they've done for us. We're in first place right now, and they did so much to help us get here. It's going to be real emotional."


Manager Jim Tracy agreed.


"I expect a standing ovation, a well-deserved one, and that's what you're going to get," Tracy said. "And in my own way, I might be giving [Lo Duca] one too."






The Dodgers put Penny on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, retroactive to last Monday, because of a nerve problem on his right arm, and purchased the contract of left-handed reliever Mike Venafro from triple-A Las Vegas. Although Penny could be activated and start Aug. 24 against Montreal, the Dodgers said it appeared doubtful the right-hander would be ready to take that turn.


Trainer Stan Johnston said Penny continued to experience numbness in his forearm and that Penny would not resume throwing until the sensation was gone.


Penny did not rule out returning Aug. 24.


"It's realistic," he said. "The way I feel today, I'm pretty close."


Kazuhisa Ishii, who pitched well in place of Penny in Saturday's 2-0 loss, is scheduled to start again Thursday against Atlanta at Dodger Stadium.

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