In the past year, Gagne has pitched two innings and had two elbow operations. In his second appearance of the year Tuesday night, he got a save but irritated the ulnar nerve that passes through the elbow joint. He stopped after taking 10 light warmup throws Friday, did not pick up a ball Saturday and probably won't on Sunday, either.
"He's still not good enough to throw," said Little. "That's still a few days down the road. We're not in any real crunch right now. Our bullpen is well-rested. We'll wait as long as we can, just in case he's able to throw and get back in the game. But as the days go by, the possibility of that happening sooner than later doesn't sound good to me."
Gagne said the anti-inflammatory medication started four days earlier continues to bring improvement. But at the same time, he said, he still feels discomfort when he raises his arm for the throwing motion.
"As long as I can feel anything, I can't throw," he said. "When the nerve is irritated, it has to go away completely. It's just time, but we don't know how long that takes."
That was a lesson Penny learned at the end of 2004 and into 2005, when he suffered a rare arm nerve injury and aggravated it trying to rush back in September for the stretch run. Penny was more deliberate when he returned in 2005 and missed the first three weeks of the season to be doubly sure that his nerve was fully healed. He has had no further problems with it.
With a day off Monday, the club might delay a decision until Tuesday, when Jeff Kent will be activated off the disabled list.
Preparing for Kent: Utilityman Ramon Martinez has received the bulk of playing time at second base while Kent has been sidelined. But Kent's return Tuesday could have the greatest impact on 21-year-old rookie Joel Guzman, who started at third base Saturday night but figures to be returned to Triple-A Las Vegas unless the club goes with 11 pitchers.
"That's the way it looks now, but we have two games and anything can happen," said Little. "We like his progress at third base. We're trying to give him at-bats to get his bat going."
Guzman has been passed by Matt Kemp as the organization's best position prospect. Guzman was promoted June 1 when Kent was disabled, and has had only 15 at-bats, batting .200 without an extra-base hit. The Dodgers have played eight games since he arrived and Saturday night was only his fourth start.
Guzman was a shortstop coming into Spring Training, a left fielder coming out of Spring Training, and now seems to be groomed for third base with Bill Mueller out indefinitely, although Willy Aybar has proved to be more capable at this point in their careers.
Injury update: Outfielder Jason Repko suffered a setback during his rehabilitation from a high ankle sprain and is unlikely to return before the All-Star break.
Outfielder Ricky Ledee continues to heal slowly from a groin pull, and Little said he is still several weeks away.
Sudoku craze: It probably would have happened anyway, but at any point in time before a game, any number of Dodgers can be found playing the numerical sequence puzzle game Sudoku, and they have Jose Cruz Jr. to thank for it.
Cruz said he was introduced to the logic-based placement puzzle during his one-week stay with the Boston Red Sox last year. He brought a fascination for the game with him to the Dodgers, who curiously watched him work on the puzzle intensely.
Locker by locker, the game has spread to where Cruz now estimates 14 teammates play it to pass the time.
"There's no guessing in this, there's a logical explanation for everything," he said of the game. "When I brought it over, everybody starting asking about it. The next thing I knew, it started appearing in USA Today. Now every paper has it. The clubhouse guys say a lot of teams are playing it. It can take five to 10 minutes, to a couple of hours. It keeps things exciting."
Coming up: Derek Lowe (5-2, 2.70) opposes Colorado's Aaron Cook (5-6, 3.63) in Sunday's series finale at 12:05 p.m. PT.