Little said he's comfortable with the flexibility that exists with Ramon Martinez and Willy Aybar on the roster, but if Kent is out much longer, a familiar name could soon be ready to fill in -- Cesar Izturis.
The Gold Glove shortstop took another step in his return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction by joining the Triple-A Las Vegas 51s for a rehabilitation assignment after spending five days batting in extended Spring Training games in Florida.
Little said Izturis will play three games at second base starting on Thursday "as a way of easing him into action" before he moves to shortstop. Little and general manager Ned Colletti said it has not been decided if Izturis will be asked to play some third base. Regular third baseman Bill Mueller is out another three weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
Little said there is no set date for Izturis' return.
"It depends on how he reacts to playing," he said. "Making the throw from the hole at shortstop is the play we're most concerned about. We won't rush Cesar. If he puts his time in and he's feeling good and Kent is out an extended period ... he needs to show us he's fully able to play at different positions."
Penny's mechanical flaw: With Monday's fireworks put to rest by a Tuesday night meeting between manager Grady Little and pitcher Brad Penny, the right-hander spent Wednesday night's pregame in a bullpen session working on a mechanical flaw.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt is hopeful a habit Penny developed can not only explain the six consecutive hits he allowed Monday that led to his fifth-inning departure, but might be contributing to the back and shoulder discomfort Penny has dealt with over his last four starts.
"We found a little mechanical flaw that is rotational, so his shoulders aren't squared properly and it puts his arm slot in a different position," said Honeycutt. "It could have led to some of the things he's feeling. You can develop this slowly and when you start feeling the sensation that something's wrong, you want to work harder by using your lower body more, but the tendency is to use your upper body without realizing it."
Honeycutt said he believes that's what Penny's been doing. the mechanical change first putting pressure on the lower back, then by compensating it could be putting pressure on the shoulder.
"He's just a little out of synch," Honeycutt said. "For a power pitcher, when he's on, he's had good control, and for him to be really off-line requires bad positioning of his arm. The trick in the bullpen session is, you tell him to only go 70 percent, because you want to work on the mechanics, but he's a power pitcher. He doesn't want to go 70 percent."
Cruz's brother missing: Jose Cruz Jr. had little to say about the reported disappearance of his 34-year-old brother, Jose Javier Cruz, who was last seen on May 19 in Houston. The Houston Chronicle reported that Jose Javier Cruz was the last person seen behind the wheel of a 2005 Chevy pickup truck that was found ablaze May 20. No human remains were found in the track, which was linked to Cruz's ex-wife. No missing persons report had been filed, but Houston police told the Chronicle that Jose Javier Cruz was considered "a missing person in danger."
"It's a long story," said Cruz Jr. "It's personal."
Gagne to close: Eric Gagne rejoins the club Thursday night and Little said he "won't hesitate putting him in, I can guarantee that."
But during his pregame interview, Little hedged on exactly who would have which role in the bullpen, citing unknown developments in Wednesday night's game, as well as a reluctance to pitch Gagne in back-to-back games immediately.
He said he felt comfortable using Danys Baez, Takashi Saito, Jonathan Broxton or Joe Beimel in setup situations, as well as closing when Gagne is unavailable.
Player to be named: Cody Ross was traded Apr. 24 to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named, and that player is expected to be named on Thursday. The player is a Minor Leaguer not on Cincinnati's 40-man roster.
Coming up: After flying all night, the Dodgers open a seven-game homestand on Thursday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, with Derek Lowe (3-3, 2.90) opposing Gavin Floyd (4-2, 6.62). Lowe flew home separately during the day.