Notes: Loney to see playing time
Little says first baseman could regularly spell Garciaparra
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers management didn't call up James Loney and Matt Kemp over the weekend to sit on the bench.
Loney replaced Nomar Garciaparra in the lineup again at first base on Monday, meaning that Sunday's day off for Garciaparra was more than just an isolated occurrence.
Garciaparra -- who was seen before the game with Victoria Beckham, former Spice Girl and wife of soccer star David Beckham -- spent considerably more time in the batting cage. The six-time All-Star is on the bench and will stay there perhaps through this series, according to Little.
"We'll give him a little break, two and possibly three games," Little said. "It's not just physically, but mentally. Coming into the season, we said we'd try to give him a day off, and with Loney, we'll find time to do it on a more regular basis. It will be good for Nomar and good for Loney."
Of course, the only thing that really matters is what's good for the standings. If Garciaparra wasn't in a career-worst power vacuum, things would be different. But he has one home run in 231 at-bats (183 at-bats since his last). Chances are that even when he returns, it might not be in his customary No. 3 spot in the order, which is now being filled by catcher Russell Martin, who appears pretty comfortable there.
Little said he will try to rotate Tony Abreu, now the third baseman, over to second base to give 39-year-old Jeff Kent more days off. The expectation is that Kemp, who started Sunday, will see playing time giving 39-year-old left fielder Luis Gonzalez similar days off, as well as spell Juan Pierre in center field against left-handed pitching.
"Our concern isn't June and July, it's September and October," Little said, referring to Garciaparra and Kent. "We don't know the specific number [of days], but more than once every three or four weeks. It's precautionary. We'll try to do it a day or two before they're dragging."
Little was asked what he expected out of a No. 3 hitter.
"To hit with people on base and be productive up near the top of the league in RBIs," he said. "Nomar has done that for us this year very well."
Garciaparra has driven in 34 runs, second on the club to Martin's 40, and his .426 average with runners in scoring position is second in the league. But his slugging percentage of .333 is a dramatic plunge from .505 last year and .540 for an 11-year career. Does that mean Garciaparra has become a different hitter (as in, a clutch singles hitter)?
"I don't know," said Little. "It's a long season with a lot of games to go. We have a shortstop [Rafael Furcal] who at this time had maybe one home run [actually, four] and had 15 at the end of the year. Maybe I'll be better able to answer that question at the end of the season."
Garciaparra took extra batting practice with Kemp, Andre Ethier and Wilson Betemit before regular batting practice and headed down to the indoor batting cage with hitting coach Eddie Murray an hour before the game.
Meanwhile, Ethier took some fly balls in left field before the game. He played there almost exclusively last year, but has been the right fielder this year.
"They want me to be familiar with it, because with Brady Clark [designated for assignment], if Kemp is playing, they want me to be able to move over to left when they take out [Luis Gonzalez]," said Ethier. "I haven't taken a ball there since last year. Better to remember how to do it at 4 [o'clock] than at 10. They know I can play there, I just want to be comfortable."
Spotlight on Martin: By moving into the top spot in National League voting for All-Star catcher, Martin was surrounded by local media before the game.
The best comments, however, came from the Dodgers' previous All-Star catcher and current Met, Paul Lo Duca.
"He's done everything right. I wasn't as talented as Russell at his age, I didn't have the catching skills," said Lo Duca, who reached the Major Leagues at age 26, compared to 23 for Martin. "He's so polished behind the plate. Pitchers are comfortable throwing to him, he understands the game and he's an unbelievable offensive player.
"I just told him to get his rest, take your days off. He reminds me of myself, he doesn't want to take time off, neither did I. You get older, you realize it pays off."
Juggled rotation: With days off Thursday and next Monday, Little said he would juggle his starting pitchers so left-handers Randy Wolf and Hong-Chih Kuo would not pitch back-to-back.
Tsao, Brazoban updates: Chin-hui Tsao threw lightly in the outfield Monday and was pleased to report the discomfort in his shoulder was gone.
Yhency Brazoban, also disabled with shoulder problems, will have a bullpen session Tuesday.
Draft picks signing: Scouting director Tim Hallgren reported that seven of last week's picks in the First-Year Player Draft had either signed or agreed to terms. They are Erik Kanaby (10th round), Paul Koss (11th), Jessie Mier (12th), Bobby Blevins (13th), Cal Stanke (15th), Andres Santiago (16th) and Franklin Jacobs (17th).
He was confident the club's first five choices would soon agree. That would include first-rounder Chris Withrow, who will receive a bonus of about $1.35 million. The highest pick that figures to be a difficult sign is fifth-round pitcher Kyle Blair from Los Gatos High School.
On Repko's tab: Injured outfielder Jason Repko launched his personal community program on Monday. Repko hosted 10 youngsters from the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services at the game and will host others at nine more games throughout the season. The kids will meet Repko and watch batting practice from the field while also receiving Dream Team t-shirts, a baseball and a ticket to the All-You-Can-Eat Pavilion, compliments of Repko.
Coming up: Kuo (0-1, 4.85) opposes the Mets' John Maine (6-3, 2.78) Tuesday night at 7:10 p.m. PT.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.