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Dodgers may acquire pitcher Hendrickson

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L.A. closing in

on a starter? Dodgers on verge of acquiring Hendrickson

BY TONY JACKSON, Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS - The Dodgers' struggling rotation might be on the verge of getting some help.

Following Monday night's game, an 8-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins in front of 22,528 at the Metrodome, the Dodgers appeared close to acquiring Tampa Bay left-hander Mark Hendrickson. The deal also is believed to involve a swap of catchers, with Dioner Navarro going to the Devil Rays for Toby Hall.

Hendrickson, who turned 32 on Friday, last pitched on Sunday against Atlanta, taking a hard-luck loss.

Hall didn't play Monday night at Florida. Backup Josh Paul made his second consecutive start for the Devil Rays behind the plate, something a source close to the club called "highly unusual." .was one report that both Hendrickson and Hall were told before the Devil Rays' game that they had been traded to the Dodgers, but that is unconfirmed. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti did not immediately return a call from the Daily News.

Roy Smith, the club's vice president for scouting and player development who is on the current road trip, wasn't available for comment. Hendrickson is 4-8 but has a respectable 3.81 ERA. At the very least, his addition would be a step forward for a Dodgers rotation that has Derek Lowe, Brad Penny and little else manager Grady Little can count on.

It isn't immediately clear where Hall, 30, would fit with the Dodgers, who already have Russell Martin catching almost every game. They also have Sandy Alomar, a six-time All-Star who has started two games this month and four since Martin was promoted to the big leagues on May 5, as the backup.

Navarro went on the disabled list that day with a bruised right wrist. By the time he was activated two weeks ago, Martin had played so well that Navarro no longer had a spot on the team, and he was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas.

A trade to the Devil Rays would mean new life for Navarro, who showed promise defensively last season but struggled this year. Hall is eligible for free agency after the season.

Meanwhile, rookie prospect Chad Billingsley on Monday made his third start for the Dodgers and did his best impersonation of Charlie Sheen's "Wild Thing" character from "Major League."

Billingsley walked seven and hit one in 5>3 innings. Four of the walks and the hit batsman came in the first two innings, when the Twins built a comfortable 4-1 lead.

"I was trying to be too fine instead of just going right after them," Billingsley said. "I was trying to pick around the plate and trying to hit too many corners."

Billingsley managed to do that in the middle innings, the main reason he was able to get as far as the sixth after throwing almost 50 pitches in the first two.

"The kind of pitcher he is and the type of competitiveness he brings to the table, he'll get better," Little said. "We're committed (to him) and feel confident that he'll get the job done. There are going to be a lot of days where four runs and getting the game to the sixth inning is something we'll be happy about."

Billingsley (0-1), who still is looking for his first major-league win, ultimately was charged with six runs.

He was lifted after issuing his final walk, to Nick Punto, to put runners on first and second with two outs in the sixth. Hong-Chih Kuo then gave up hits to each of the next two batters, putting the Dodgers (40-36) in a 6-2 hole. The Dodgers' Nomar Garciaparra, the top National League hitter, went 2 for 4. He ran his hitting streak to 10 games and raised his average to .364.

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