LaRoche saw a deal brewing days before Manny trade

LaRoche.jpgWhen the Dodgers acquired Casey Blake from the Indians on July 26, third baseman Andy LaRoche’s first thought was that he needed to book a flight to Cleveland.

He breathed a sigh of relief when he found out he had not been included in that deal being fearful of the city’s cold weather.

Rumors have swirled all season about LaRoche — a prospect Baseball America ranked second in the Dodgers’ system and No. 31 overall at the start of the season — particularly the week before the Blake trade when he got four straight starts at third, with the Dodgers possibly showcasing him for a trade.

LaRoche ended up being sent down to Triple-A Las Vegas the very next day so the Dodgers could activate pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney, but he did not stay there long, being traded to the Pirates on July 31 in the three-team Manny Ramirez swap.

He ended up playing just one game for the 51s this time around, going 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs.

The day of the Blake trade, LaRoche said he would rather be in Los Angeles than anywhere else, but he would understand why if the Dodgers dealt him.

“This is my home now, my friends are on this team, everybody I came up with, a great group of guys,” LaRoche said at the time. “If there’s a better fit for me somewhere else, that obviously would be best for me, that would be probably a better situation, but as for right now the Dodgers are my team.

“If [general manager Ned] Colletti or anyone else thinks I’d be a better fit somewhere then I guess they’ll make that decision, or if it’s better if they need a closer or somebody or whatever to come over here and put me in there, that’s there decision, I just have to accept that and move on, but as for right now I’d like to stay here, and this is where I’d like to play.”

So LaRoche clearly understood he was a piece the Dodgers were willing to move, but he never could have guessed five days before it went down that he would be the key cog in a Manny Ramirez deal.

And if he was going to be dealt by the organization that drafted him, he was pleased to be traded to the Pirates for a family reunion with his older brother Adam LaRoche, a Pittsburgh first baseman.

Demoted Dodgers heating up in Vegas

Hu.jpgShortstop Chin-lung Hu has remained hot in Vegas, hitting in five straight games through July 31. He exploded for a 4-for-5 day with a double, two triples, four RBIs and four runs on July 26 before going 3-for-3 with three runs and a walk the next night.

Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Hu has been “doing pretty well” in Triple-A and would have been the probable move had Nomar Garciaparra needed to go on the disabled list with his sprained left knee before the Ramirez deal, after which Garciaparra went on the DL to make room for Ramirez.

Meanwhile, third baseman Blake DeWitt is hitting 8-for-16 with two homers, a triple, eight RBIs and three runs scored in his first four games since his demotion, flashing the power he was not showing in the Majors when he went 16 straight games without an extra-base hit late in his recent stint with the Dodgers.

Infielder Luis Maza is 8-for-19 (.421) with eight runs scored in five games since being designated for assignment on July 20. His biggest day came July 26 in his first game with the 51s when he went 4-for-4 with four runs scored and three RBIs.

Double-A Notes

Outfielder James Tomlin is hitting .526 (20-for-38) with six RBIs in his last 14 games entering Aug. 1 for Double-A Jacksonville.

Pitcher Scott Elbert, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2004, is 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 16 games (one start) since joining the Suns in June. He missed nearly all of 2007 and the beginning of 2008 recovering from shoulder surgery.

Pitcher Danny Muegge tossed 20 consecutive innings without yielding an earned run before giving one up in the third inning of his July 28 start. Still, he’s posted a 0.41 ERA over 22 innings of his last eight appearances.

— Michael Schwartz

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