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Groin strain for LA's Belliard is minor

Groin strain for LA's Belliard is minor

PITTSBURGH -- After Sunday's loss to the Pirates, manager Joe Torre said infielder Ronnie Belliard came out of the game with a slight strain of the left groin and confirmed that starter Vicente Padilla would pitch out of the bullpen the final week of the season.

Belliard was injured while rounding first base after a key single in the Dodgers' three-run ninth inning. He said the injury was minor and expected to miss a couple days.

"I blew out my right side before," he said. "I didn't blow this one."

The loss of Belliard could be key considering the boost he's given the offense since his acquisition from Washington on Aug. 30. In 23 games, he has five homers, seven doubles, 16 RBIs and is hitting .342 while sharing time at second base with Orlando Hudson and filling in for Casey Blake, who missed his fifth consecutive game as a precautionary measure because of a tender hamstring.

As for Padilla, Torre said he will pitch out of the bullpen this week, "but that doesn't mean he won't be one of the starters" in the postseason. Torre named Chad Billingsley and Jon Garland to start games in San Diego on Tuesday and Wednesday but would not list probables for the final weekend against Colorado.

Padilla, who has not made a relief appearance since 2001, is 3-0 with a 3.62 ERA in six starts since his release by Texas and signing by the Dodgers.

By skipping Padilla with a day off Thursday, if Torre keeps to the current order he will start Randy Wolf, Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda in the final three games of the regular season Friday-Sunday.

That would put those three in line to start Games 1, 2 and 3 of the playoffs, particularly likely should the Dodgers face the Phillies and retain the home-field advantage. They would be starting two lefties at home against the powerful left-handed Philadelphia lineup, then send the unflappable Kuroda to the mound in the hostile environment of Citizens Bank Park. Kuroda beat the Phillies at Dodger Stadium in Game 3 of last year's National League Championship Series.

The fourth starting spot is up for grabs among Padilla, Billingsley and Garland and the decision might depend on which team the Dodgers open against, with the struggling Billingsley more likely to face the Cardinals than the Phillies, who beat him twice in the NLCS. His start Wednesday will probably go a long way in deciding his postseason role.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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