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Notes: Pierre never lacked confidence

Notes: Pierre always confident

LOS ANGELES -- When center fielder Juan Pierre got off to a slow start this season, there weren't too many people in his corner.

The media was questioning whether the Dodgers overspent for the slap-hitting Pierre.

Fans were getting a little edgy, thinking the five-year, $44 million contract the Dodgers gave Pierre could've been used for the big bat the team lacks.

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Things got so bad for Pierre that manager Grady Little sat him out of a game against the Padres on April 14, saying his center fielder needed a breather.

"I've been in this league for awhile," Pierre said. "You got to believe in yourself and in your talent. You always have to have confidence."

It was a tough first two weeks of the season for the left-hand hitting, native son of Mobile, Ala. In his first 12 games of the season, Pierre was 8-for-43 (.186) and was struggling in the field, as well.

Since that time, however, Pierre has bounced back, putting the skeptics to rest and putting his bat to use. In the last seven games, Pierre has been on a tear, hitting .438 (14-for-32) with ll runs scored and three stolen bases.

"Absolutely not, I haven't changed a thing," said Pierre, after being asked if he had been doing anything different in the past week. "I've been a little more aggressive going after pitches earlier in the count, but other than that I think the ball is just finding some holes."

Pierre, who leads the Dodgers in hits (23), runs (16) and stolen bases (7), entered Tuesday's game batting .280 for the season, and his 14 hits and 11 runs last week led all Major Leaguers.

"Stealing bases is nice and all the other stuff is good, but the ultimate goal is to score runs," said Pierre of his team-leading numbers. "That's what I get paid to do, score runs. It's a credit to guys like Nomar [Garciaparra] and [Jeff] Kent for getting the big hits with men on base."

Pierre had a seven-game hitting streak entering Tuesday's game, and on Monday he was announced as one of the nominees for the Bank of America Presents National League Player of the Week.

Little was asked prior to Tuesday's game if Pierre's move from the leadoff spot to the two hole has been the difference.

"It doesn't appear to matter to Juan," Little said. "He's doing a better job for us. Why? I don't think that really matters."

For Pierre, the why doesn't matter either. He's hitting the ball well, stealing bases and scoring runs. And at the end of the day, that's who the Dodgers thought they were getting.

Brazoban getting closer: Reliever Yhency Brazoban, who is recovering from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, is getting closer to returning.

Brazoban was in the Dodgers' clubhouse prior to Tuesday's game for the first time this season and said his arm was feeling a lot better.

"I still need time, but I'm throwing the ball a lot better," Brazoban said. "My main concern is my arm, it needs to be healthy for me to help the Dodgers."

Brazoban is expected to pitch at Triple-A Las Vegas on Friday.

Simulated game for Kuo: Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo (strained shoulder) will throw another simulated game on Wednesday before the Dodgers play the Giants.

Kuo is expected to throw 45 pitches.

Schmidt's add a third: Injured pitcher Jason Schmidt is away from the team for the next couple of days to be with his family's new addition.

The Schmidt's welcomed a baby boy to the world Sunday morning. The boy's name is Maddon and Schmidt joked, "he's got the same hair cut as I do." The Schmidt's have a daughter Makynlee and a son Mason.

The skipper's riding tight: Little enjoyed his off-day Monday by taking his new motorcycle out for a spin.

Little rode through the hills along Mulholland Drive with his wife, Debbie, and said they had fun except for some of the curbs.

"On a couple of those curbs I felt her [Debbie] grabbing on tight," said Little chuckling under his breath. "It was fun, we even stopped to get some hot dogs on Sunset."

Coming up: The Dodgers continue their series with the north rivals on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. PT with an all-lefty showdown featuring Noah Lowry (1-2, 2.70 ERA) for the Giants and Randy Wolf, (3-1, 3.38) for the Dodgers.

Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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