Notes: Gagne remains cautious

Notes: Gagne remains cautious in comeback

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- It's not game action that has been a concern this spring for Eric Gagne.

It's the next day.

"It's not about how I feel out there, it's about bouncing back," said Gagne, who allowed a single but induced a double-play grounder in one scoreless, 10-pitch inning on Thursday.

"I wish it was just about being out there, because I feel good when I'm out there. I've got to get the scar tissue out of there. I only play a little catch the day after I pitch to get loose and get the blood flowing. Mostly, it's more treatment than anything else."

Gagne apparently has a body type inclined to produce significant scar tissue, which has translated into requiring more time to recover between appearances this spring. It is believed the elbow sprain he suffered last spring caused the formation of scar tissue that entrapped a nerve in his elbow, requiring last June's season-ending surgery.

Gagne has been taking three days off between appearances, although that will now be trimmed to two days for the next two appearances. He said he plans to pitch on back-to-back days before Spring Training concludes, but he will not pitch two innings in any game, as he had in previous springs.

"For sure, I won't do two innings," he said. "There's no reason with the bullpen we have. If I have to during the season, I'll do it, but later in the season."

The Dodgers are hopeful Gagne's resiliency will improve, perhaps close to where he was before the most recent injury. At his dominant best, he has pitched on four consecutive days.

If not, the acquisition of Danys Baez to share the closer load will loom even larger. The ability to pitch on successive days, not only for Gagne but the entire bullpen, will be a key factor in deciding whether to carry 11 or 12 pitchers to start the season.

Gagne threw one curveball against Florida for the first time this spring (for a strike), two changeups and seven fastballs.

Navarro cautiously optimistic: After a cortisone injection and a day of treatment, catcher Dioner Navarro said his hamstring strain wasn't as bad as he feared when it happened 24 hours earlier.

"Maybe it won't be too long," said a hopeful Navarro, whose prognosis for return is 10-14 days. "It's better than they thought. It was really painful. When it happened, I thought maybe it would be three months. Stuff happens, you know? I'm glad it happened in Spring Training."

If Navarro cannot open the season on the active roster, Russell Martin would make the jump from Double-A Jacksonville.

"I'd rather win a job out of competition," said Martin, 23. "But if this is how I'm supposed to get an opportunity, I have to try to do the best with it. I think it's unfortunate for anybody to get hurt. We don't know how bad it is and hopefully he won't be out long. I just hope I stay healthy."

Although Martin is out-hitting Navarro .389-.062 in a small Spring Training sample, it has been assumed that Navarro would make the club over Martin as an incumbent. One year younger, Navarro has two months as a Major League starter, while Martin has never caught a pitch higher than Double-A.

Dodger power: Cody Ross, Bill Mueller, Joel Guzman and Delwyn Young homered on Thursday. It was the third for Ross, who is having a huge camp and is out of options. Guzman's was one of his trademark monster blasts.

"He doesn't hit cheap ones," said manager Grady Little, who also praised Guzman for a play in left field.

Little seems to have settled on a batting order with no surprises -- Rafael Furcal, Kenny Lofton, J.D. Drew, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Mueller, Jose Cruz. Jr. and Navarro. With either Furcal or Lofton sitting, he would move Garciaparra to second and Mueller or Cruz to fifth. It could get pretty interesting, however, if Guzman blasts continue to clear the palm trees.

Cruz and Ricky Ledee are expected to be back on Friday from the World Baseball Classic.

The left-handed reliever competition: Joe Beimel, 1.93 ERA; Tim Hamulack, 1.50 ERA; Hong-Chih Kuo, 0.00 ERA; Kelly Wunsch, 6.75 ERA.

Malone returns...for a day: Kevin Malone made his first Dodgertown appearance on Thursday since resigning as Dodgers general manager on April 20, 2001.

"It's my first time back since I left, and I have a good feeling being back," said Malone, who is partners with Dodgers batting coach Eddie Murray in a Mercedes dealership in Valencia, Calif.

"The atmosphere here is good. It's businesslike, but the players seem to be having fun. I like what Ned [Colletti, current Dodgers GM,] has done with the club. They seem to have a good team."

The only current Major Leaguer who played during Malone's two-season tenure is Gagne, however six others on the 40-man roster were acquired on his watch -- Guzman, Jason Repko, Kuo, Franquelis Osoria, Willy Aybar and Jose Diaz.

Roster moves: Infielder Andy LaRoche and left-hander Greg Miller were optioned to Minor League camp. LaRoche, the organization's Minor League position player of the year in 2005, had a phenomenal inning on March 5 -- six RBIs, including a grand slam. Miller, once one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the game, is having his first healthy spring after two years hampered by shoulder operations.

Knuckling down: Charlie Hough, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1970-80 and spent 25 years in the Major Leagues, will arrive at Dodgertown on Friday and spend a week as a guest pitching instructor.

Coming up: The Dodgers will play their first night game of the spring on Friday against the Mets at Dodgertown at 4 p.m. PT. Brett Tomko gets the start for Los Angeles, followed by relief candidates D.J. Houlton, Brian Meadows and Wunsch. Baez is also scheduled to take the mound. The Mets will start Steve Trachsel.

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