LOS ANGELES -- Nomar Garciaparra swung a bat 75 times Saturday afternoon.

So much for the highlight of the Dodgers first baseman's workday. But if his 32-year-old injured right rib cage could speak or write, the story might go on for a while.

That's about as specific as it gets these days for Garciaparra, whose time on the disabled list dates back to April 3.

Garciaparra, manager Grady Little and the Dodgers training staff have set the dial to wait-and-see and are keeping it there.

According to Little, the energy in those 75 swings -- not in the batting cage, but in a soft-toss drill -- was "about 85 percent." Trouble is, soft-toss is just a drill.

"The intensity level of each swing is more than it has been," Little said before Saturday's game with San Francisco, "so that's a step in the right direction.

"We need to see him go out and swing 100 percent before he goes out on the field and plays a game."

For that to happen, Garciaparra said, he'll need at least two hard days of batting practice. Only then will he be able to gauge his ability to recover from the stress a full swing puts on the middle of his body.

"The way I'm progressing is nothing out of the ordinary," Garciaparra said. "But we haven't even talked about the possibility of batting practice tomorrow."

In the meantime, he said, he'll take ground balls at first base the next couple of days.

Little and Garciaparra both declined to pin down a timetable for the latter's return -- questions about "next week" went politely unanswered -- and no plans have been laid for a Minor League assignment.

Little, however, did concur with his player's sense that recovery from two days in the batting cage was a key element.

"Nomar's swing is a hard swing when he's right," Little said. "If he tries to do it in the way he's used to doing it, that'll tell the story."

Manager's mix: The rest of Little's Saturday media session was a mosaic of player updates, state-of-the-team reflections and offhand quips:

On Jason Repko's playing time, now that Kenny Lofton has returned (Lofton started his first game in center field Saturday): "Jason's going to get a lot of playing time. He's shown us what he can do offensively and we've been impressed."

On Brad Penny's condition after being hit on the arm by a comebacker in the fourth inning of Friday night's loss to the Giants: "Penny's OK. It's just an exterior bruise. He'll be OK for his next start."

On his bullpen, specifically who will step into the role of setup man for new closer Danys Baez, now that eighth-inning specialist Yhency Brazoban (out for the season with a torn elbow ligament) and closer Eric Gagne (on the disabled list because of right elbow surgery, with his return indefinite): "I like [Hong-Chih] Kuo and [Takashi] Saito. [Saito] is working himself into that position. I feel confident in him because he throws strikes and gets outs. ... But we don't want to put a [setup] label on him because he's got to do it for a length of time before we call him that."

On whether Friday night's soggy field was a concern: "We start to worry about it every time somebody walks out on a wet dugout step."

On his team's troublesome early-season men-left-on-base figure (97 in 11 games, compared to the opposition's 73): "The positive thing about men left on base is that you're putting them out there. We're not going to drive all those guys in, or these games would never get over with."

On shortstop Rafael Furcal's slow start after shoulder problems: "It's early. He's going to be a great leadoff hitter for us. It'll come. ... I'm not going to say he's pain-free because very seldom in baseball are you going to find a player who's pain-free."

On the team's chances of going 7-7: "We gotta get hot and win two out of three."