© 2006 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

09/17/06 4:15 PM ET

Notes: Good news on Nomar

Dodgers first baseman could be back as soon as Monday

LOS ANGELES -- Nomar Garciaparra, nursing a strained quad muscle suffered Friday night, was not in the lineup Sunday, but manager Grady Little said his first baseman could return as early as Monday night's series finale with the Padres.

"He's coming along nicely," Little said of Garciaparra, who has already been disabled twice this season. "He wants to get in today, but we feel one more day is best."

Garciaparra has been disabled this year with an oblique muscle strain and a sprained knee that still limits his lateral movement.

"Unlike the knee injury, where he could play when the pain was tolerable, this thing, if you push it, could pop altogether and he'd be out for 10 days or two weeks, and we can't afford that right now," Little said. "I think he'll play tomorrow, and he could pinch-hit today."

With Garciaparra still sidelined, Little went with the same lineup as Saturday night, with Jeff Kent sliding over to first base from second base and Julio Lugo starting at second base.

Billingsley gets another start: Despite a one-inning, 40-pitch disaster Saturday night in his first start after three weeks on the sidelines with an oblique injury, Chad Billingsley is expected to start Thursday night against the Pirates, Little said.

"Physically, he was fine," Little said. "But the time off created his ineffectiveness. Our plan is for him to pitch Thursday. He's a very mature kid. He knew the time off would be a factor last night.

"Next time, he'll be better. He'll go back to baby steps. He has to get his confidence back in his stuff."

While a pennant race wouldn't seem like the best time to be taking baby steps, Little said he has enough backup pitchers "in case [Billingsley's] not right."

Those backups Saturday night ranged from Mark Hendrickson, who struck out eight Padres in four innings, to Eric Stults, who was battered for four runs in 1 2/3 innings. Stults seems to be more comfortable as a starter, when he has plenty of time to prepare. Hendrickson is unscored upon in six innings of relief this year with nine strikeouts and one hit allowed, after compiling a 4.44 ERA as a starter.

"We've just got to keep shuffling them and hope we draw right on each given day," said Little.

Little said Hong-Chih Kuo will remain in the rotation and that Derek Lowe and Greg Maddux could pitch on three days' rest in the last series of the season if those games present postseason implications.

Red on blue: Lowe arrived at Dodger Stadium for his start on Sunday wearing red from head to toe, from a Tiger Woods red cap to a red shirt to red Nikes.

"Tiger wears red on Sundays and wins," explained Lowe. "Why not me?"

Shoe fits: John Shoemaker, manager of the Dodgers' Double-A affiliate at Jacksonville, will spend the last two weeks with the Major League club.

Shoemaker managed Billingsley and Russell Martin last year and Matt Kemp for a few months this year, and has received much credit for helping prepare them for the impact they've made this year. The next crop is not expected to be as deep as that last one, although Shoemaker said middle infielders Tony Abreu and Chin-lung Hu have promise.

Shoemaker also had touted pitching prospect Scott Elbert over the last month, but Elbert's control was not as sharp as it was earlier in the year at the Class A level.

"The Southern League overall was loaded with high-profile talent last year," said Shoemaker. "This year was a little different. But we had some solid players."

Repko revisited: After having his season derailed by a bad ankle sprain, Jason Repko has had to mostly watch while rookie Andre Ethier gets the playing time that might have gone to him.

"It's a little tough, but that's how it goes," said Repko. "Ramon Martinez and Olmedo Saenz have been very helpful. It's a situation where I just have to work hard and stay positive. They've been awesome with their veteran leadership. Just being part of this atmosphere is still my dream. It could be a lot worse."

Hall of Fame visitors: Among the pregame visitors in the clubhouse and dugout Sunday were a pair of Hall of Famers: legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, and the all-time winningest jockey, Laffit Pincay Jr.

Pincay caught up with follow Panamanians Saenz and Einar Diaz.

Coming up: Jake Peavy (9-14, 4.17) opposes Los Angeles' Brad Penny (16-8, 4.04) in Monday night's 7:10 PT series finale with the Padres.

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