Notes: No panic over pitching staff

Dodgers notes: No panic over pitching

PITTSBURGH -- A new day, the same topic for manager Grady Little, who spent the pregame again discussing his team's pitching woes.

Aaron Sele and D.J. Houlton are the most experienced pitchers at Triple-A Las Vegas, and Little left open all options when asked if there could be some adjustments to a 12-man pitching staff that entered Thursday's game with a 5.72 ERA.

"Anybody is a possibility for any role," said Little. "We left Spring Training with the 12 best people we felt could help us. Some of the results may lead someone to believe differently. I believe they should be given every opportunity."

The manager said that if relievers are putting extra pressure on themselves to pick up the slack from the absence of closer Eric Gagne, they shouldn't. Although the focus of the problems has been on the youthful bullpen, the ERA of the starters actually is higher than that of the relievers. Little said he expects his veteran starters to pitch deeper into games.

"It's not a winning proposition to look at the bullpen in the fifth inning," Little said. "In the end, it's not a good proposition. Everyone has got to take on their own responsibilities and do better in their roles. It's only April 13. We just need to be patient. We're not going into any kind of panic mode.

"It's like running a NASCAR race. We're running well on the track, but messing up a couple of pit stops. The car is still running well. If we clean up the pit stops, we'll finish the race in better shape."

Drew sits: After playing both games of Sunday's doubleheader, sitting out Monday's day game and playing Tuesday and Wednesday nights, J.D. Drew was not in Thursday's lineup against left-hander Oliver Perez. It's a platoon situation designed to preserve Drew's health, not a reflection of his offensive performance (.333 average, eight RBIs in nine games).

"It's part of my master plan," said Little. "We have confidence in [Cody Ross]. And we plan on having J.D. be productive for us in September. It's not a decision I've made by myself. I've talked to J.D about the big picture. He understands totally."

Among the considerations are Drew's success against right-handed pitching and his injury history. Drew is batting .364 in 22 at-bats against right-handers and .273 in 11 at-bats against left-handers. He played in only 72 games last year, which was cut short by a broken wrist.

But he also hasn't seemed to recover fully from last year's shoulder surgery. He has yet to come close to displaying the power throws that made him one of the better defensive right fielders in the league.

More injury updates: Outfielder Kenny Lofton and first baseman Nomar Garciaparra are eligible to be activated off the disabled list Friday and Tuesday, respectively, but there's no guarantee either will make it on time.

Manager Grady Little said that Lofton is close, but left open the possibility that he might not be activated until Saturday because of a strained calf muscle that turned out to be worse than originally believed. He has yet to run the bases.

Garciaparra was hopeful he would need no more than two weeks to heal from a strained ribcage muscle, but those are particularly troublesome when swinging a bat. Garciaparra has not yet begun hitting off a tee, so a Tuesday return would seem to be very optimistic.

Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. said the calf muscle cramp he encountered Tuesday night was still sore, but he did not expect it to cost him any playing time. He blamed the injury on dehydration. He was not in Thursday's lineup, but that was a planned off-day for the day game after a night game.

Shortstop Rafael Furcal is still occasionally troubled by a sore shoulder he encountered trying to play catch-up this spring while recovering from knee surgery. Furcal said he still feels it on certain throws, especially off his back leg.

Dodgers clinic: Danys Baez, James Loney, Manny Mota and former Dodger Willie Davis will instruct youngsters Saturday at a Play Ball L.A. clinic at the Wrigley Dream Field at Gilbert Lindsay Recreation Center in South Los Angeles from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. PT.

Gagne bowling: The second annual Eric Gagne Dodgers Dream Foundation Bowling Extravaganza will be held May 8 at Lucky Strike Hollywood. Gagne, recovering from surgery, is expected to participate left-handed at the charity event.

Coming up: Brad Penny (2-0, 1.50 ERA) opens the Dodgers' homestand when he starts Friday night against Jamey Wright (1-0, 5.14 ERA) and the Giants.

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