Rickey Henderson toiled in the independent Atlantic League for one last shot at the major leagues.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are giving it to him.
The Dodgers return from the All-Star break with a new pair of veteran outfielders as they open the unofficial second half of their season with a four-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Henderson, the majors’ all-time leader in stolen bases, runs and walks, hit .339 with eight homers, 33 RBIs, 52 runs and nine stolen bases in 56 games for the Newark Bears.
The offensively challenged Dodgers, in contention at the All-Star break only because of the best pitching staff in the majors, signed Henderson on Monday.
“I always felt this day would come,” the 44-year-old outfielder said Tuesday. “I’m happy that the Dodgers gave me this opportunity to continue playing baseball. I hope I can help them win.
“We haven’t discussed what my role’s going to be. Whatever role they want me to play, I’m willing to play to help this team win.”
Burnitz will probably replace the injured Brian Jordan in left field. The left handed-hitting Burnitz is batting .274 with 18 doubles, 18 homers and 45 RBIs in 234 at-bats.
“We really like these two guys,” Dodgers general manager Dan Evans said. “I think these two guys can come in and improve our ballclub. We’re not asking either one to do more than they’re capable of doing.”
As for Henderson, a utility role is more likely. Playing for his ninth team and appearing in his 25th big league season, Henderson has a chance to add to his 3,040 career hits.
The Dodgers are third in the NL West, 7 1/2 games behind first-place San Francisco, despite a 3.06 team ERA—almost a half-run lower than any other team.
Los Angeles is last in the NL with a .244 batting average and 328 runs. The Dodgers’ 59 homers are the fewest in the majors.
The Cardinals begin the second half just one game behind first-place Houston in the NL Central. However, St. Louis has not yet found out whether All-Star slugger Albert Pujols will be suspended for his part in a bench-clearing brawl against San Diego on Sunday.
Pujols, who punched Padres catcher Gary Bennett in the face after being hit by a pitch from Adam Eaton, finished second in the Home Run Derby at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago before going 1-for-3 with an RBI in the NL’s 7-6 loss in Tuesday’s All-Star game.
“If (Pujols) gets suspended, clubs are going to adopt the strategy of baiting players,” said St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, whose club entered the break on a three-game winning streak.
STANDINGS: Cardinals - 2nd place, 1 GB, NL Central. Dodgers - 3rd place, 7 1/2 GB, NL West.
CARDINALS PROBABLE STARTER: Garrett Stephenson (4-9, 4.58 ERA). Stephenson is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, allowing six runs and nine hits over five innings in St. Louis’ 9-7 win over the San Diego on Saturday. The right-hander has lost four straight starts and is 1-7 since May 20. Stephenson is 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA in two games against Los Angeles.
DODGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Hideo Nomo (9-8, 2.97 ERA). Nomo is 0-2 with a 6.63 ERA in his last three starts after winning his previous three outings. The right-hander yielded six runs and five hits in six innings of the Dodgers’ 7-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Friday. Nomo is 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 games against St. Louis.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Cardinals - Pujols, .368 avg., 86 RBIs and 81 runs; Jim Edmonds, 28 HRs; Edgar Renteria, 23 SBs. Dodgers - Paul Lo Duca, .307 avg.; Shawn Green and McGriff, 10 HRs; Green, 45 RBIs and 46 runs; Roberts, 24 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Dodgers, 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Cardinals - 3B Scott Rolen is batting .153 (2-for-13) with six strikeouts in his career against RHP Nomo. … The Cardinals had four starters in Tuesday’s All-Star game—OF Pujols, OF Edmonds, SS Renteria and 3B Rolen—for the first time since 1963. … St. Louis suffered a two-game sweep against Los Angeles from July 9-10 at Busch Stadium. Dodgers - Los Angeles lost 15 of 20 entering the break. … St. Louis batters are hitting .220 (36-for-164) against RHP Nomo. … RHP Eric Gagne, who is a perfect 31 for 31 in save opportunites this season, took the loss in Tuesday’s All-Star game, surrendering three runs in his lone inning.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Cardinals - 20-25 on the road; Dodgers - 25-21 at home.
INJURIES: Cardinals - C Joe Girardi (back), 15-day DL; C Steve Torrealba (elbow), 15-day DL; INF Miguel Cairo (hand), 15-day DL; 2B Fernando Vina (hamstring), 15-day DL; OF-C Eli Marrero (ankle), 15-day DL; RHP Russ Springer (elbow), 15-day DL; RHP Kiko Calero (foot), 60-day DL; RHP Chris Carpenter (shoulder), 60-day DL; RHP Gene Stechschulte (shoulder), 60-day DL. Dodgers - C Todd Hundley (back), 15-day DL; INF Ron Coomer (dizziness), 15-day DL; 1B McGriff (hip), 15-day DL; OF Jordan (knee), 15-day DL; OF Roberts (hamstring), 15-day DL; LHP Troy Brohawn (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Kevin Brown (abdomen), 15-day DL; RHP Darren Dreifort (knee), 60-day DL; LHP Derek Thompson (elbow), 60-day DL.