Notes: Hitters regroup with meeting

Notes: Hitters regroup with meeting

LOS ANGELES -- Manager Grady Little said there's no reason to panic over a four-game batting slump, but that didn't stop the staff from holding a hitters-only meeting before Tuesday night's game with the Chicago Cubs.

The Dodgers came into the game having lost three of four games on the homestand, scoring a total of five runs. The Dodgers in recent years held hitters-only meetings the first game of every series, but that hasn't been the case this year.

"There are times you expect during the course of the season like this, and they usually come in bunches," Little said. "You try to keep them at a minimum."

The only players in the starting lineup with averages higher than .250 heading into Tuesday's action were Bill Mueller (.354) and J.D. Drew (.311). Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal, battling an array of nagging injuries, was hitting .231. Rookie James Loney, filling in for the disabled Nomar Garciaparra, was at .182. Dioner Navarro, who hit .273 in last year's two-month trial, was at .222. Kenny Lofton, four games off the disabled list, was at .091.

Little said he does not place much importance on early-season offensive statistical trends.

"It doesn't mean a lot until a hitter gets 100 at-bats," he said. "That's when you see a real picture. Stats from 14 or 15 games don't tell the whole story."

Little said the key stats he looks for in hitters are on-base percentage, slugging percentage and a combination of those. For pitchers, he looks at the ratio of hits and strikeouts per innings pitched and strikeouts to walks.

And how much emphasis does he place on what he observes?

"A lot," he said. "Some people, [stats] are all they look at. I'll never be accused of taking the human element out of it."

Kent returns: After missing Monday night's game with concussion symptoms, second baseman Jeff Kent was back in the lineup Tuesday night.

Kent, hit in the heat by a Brad Hennessey pitch Sunday night, said the left eye that couldn't focus Monday night had cleared. He still complained of a headache, "but it's good enough that Tylenol can cure it."

Kent also said the area above his left temple, where the pitch struck his helmet, was still tender and his neck was a little stiff.

Reliever Yhency Brazoban underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction Tuesday, with Dr. Ralph Gambardella and Dr. Frank Jobe transplanting a tendon from Brazoban's left forearm to replace a torn ligament in his elbow.

Brazoban, who suffered the injury on a pitch last Wednesday night in Pittsburgh, is expected to be out a minimum of one year.

Nomar nears rehab assignment: Little indicated that Garciaparra, disabled with a strained rib cage muscle, will probably soon start a Minor League rehabilitation assignment, the last step before he is activated.

"That's a strong possibility," said Little. "After an injury like he's had, you've got to make sure he can play nine innings. Taking batting practice is different than getting up and down for nine innings."

Garciaparra said he wants to see how he bounces back from a second day of aggressive batting practice, but he also said he would have no problem accepting a Minor League rehab assignment.

"I understand," he said. "The worst thing would be to get in a game and step up the intensity, and go back on the disabled list and mess up the team as well."

Needing clarification: In the third inning Monday night, Dodgers second baseman Oscar Robles was unable to field Juan Pierre's one-out bouncer because Ronny Cedeno, running from first to second, ran into the ball and Robles. Second-base umpire Chris Guccione called Cedeno out for interference, but Pierre was safe at first on a fielder's choice.

Guccione said the interference was unintentional. Robles said he was planning to tag Cedeno and flip to first for a double play. Guccione said he could have called Pierre out as well only if he believed there had been obvious intent by the runner to break up a double play through the interference. Todd Walker followed with a single, but Brett Tomko struck out Derrek Lee to end the inning.

Fernando's Amigos: The Dodgers announced they will team with former pitching star and current Spanish-language broadcaster Fernando Valenzuela to host children's groups from the local community to designated 2006 Dodgers home games as part of the Los Amigos de Fernando program, presented by Cacique and Las Palmas. The groups, which consist of 34 children in honor of the uniform number Valenzuela wore with the Dodgers, will participate in pregame activities with the left-hander.

This season's Los Amigos de Fernando program kicked off at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. This year marks the 25th anniversary of Fernandomania, when Valenzuela became an international phenomenon during his rookie season.

Coming up: Brad Penny (2-0, 1.50 ERA) starts for the Dodgers in Wednesday night's series finale against left-handed rookie Sean Marshall and the Chicago Cubs. Penny left his last start after six innings with a triceps contusion after being struck by a comebacker.

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