Notes: Day off for Garciaparra

Notes: Day off for Garciaparra

MIAMI -- Manager Grady Little tried to load the Dodgers' batting order with right-handed hitters to oppose Florida left-hander Dontrelle Willis Wednesday night, but one key right-handed bat was conspicuously absent.

That would be slumping Nomar Garciaparra, whose 0-for-13 slide and 2-for-21 trip earned him this game off.

"He needs a break," said Little. "We have to get him out of the funk he's in. ... It's nothing he hasn't been in before. He needs a day to regroup and collect himself and he'll be fine."

Little was concerned enough about Garciaparra that he benched him even though the first baseman is 4-for-9 lifetime against Willis with a home run.

Taking over at first base for Garciaparra was Olmedo Saenz, who was 2-for-5 against Willis. It was only the second start of the year for Saenz, although Little indicated he would probably stick with him again Thursday against right-hander Sergio Mitre.

With Garciaparra out, catcher Russell Martin moved up to third in the order and Andy LaRoche batted sixth.

Other changes: Little left Willis' good friend Juan Pierre in the lineup as the lone left-handed hitter, but he sat corner outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Andre Ethier, starting Wilson Valdez in left field and Brady Clark in right.

It was the first Major League outfield start for Valdez, who had been exclusively a middle infielder throughout an 11-year professional career, but impressed management with his ball-chasing ability shagging flies in Spring Training.

For Clark, 3-for-11 against Willis, this was his seventh start for the Dodgers as the replacement for injured fourth outfielder Jason Repko. Clark said he's adjusting to the bench role after four seasons as a regular with the Brewers. He's on pace for 162 at-bats this season, which would be the fewest since 2002.

"I'm handling it fine. It is what it is," said Clark. "I just keep a positive mindset and stay mentally and physically ready. On a personal level, it bothers you, but not many players don't want to play every day. It drives you to be better."

12th pitcher: Little said he thinks adding another pitcher is "inevitable" and would probably happen before next Thursday's day off. The most likely candidate currently on the 40-man roster seems to be Hong-Chih Kuo, who has 15 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings, but also has allowed four walks and two homers.

Little also indicated that going to 12 pitchers might lead to the return to the starting rotation of Chad Billingsley, who struck out each of the three batters he faced Tuesday night.

"It takes a while for a starting pitcher to get accustomed to the lifestyle of the bullpen, not that we want him to get real comfortable down there," Little said. "I don't think that's where he ends up.

"We could stretch him out if we got 12 pitchers," Little said. "He could probably go four innings if it was tomorrow. This guy's been a starter his whole career."

The additional dilemma is which position player comes off the roster to make room for a 12th pitcher. The only player the Dodgers could move without the risk of losing is rookie LaRoche. Of the other bench players, Wilson Betemit and Valdez are out of options and Clark, Saenz, Ramon Martinez and Mike Lieberthal have guaranteed contracts with sufficient service time that they could reject Minor League assignments.

Derek Lowe vs. Miguel Cabrera: The Marlins' franchise third baseman is 0-for-13 lifetime against Derek Lowe. How does the Dodgers right-hander do it?

"Uh-uh, nope, I'm not talking about it. I don't want to jinx it," said Lowe.

Schmidt in motion: Disabled pitcher Jason Schmidt's throwing program continues as he recovers from shoulder bursitis. He's now added a windup to his flat-ground throwing, but there's still no timetable when he will return to a mound.

Yeager healing: Former Dodgers catcher Steve Yeager, now the hitting coach for the club's Class A affiliate at Inland Empire, is home healing after requiring nearly 300 stitches for lacerations suffered in a freeway accident last weekend as he made the commute back to his Westlake Village home.

Tracy update: He's with Pittsburgh now and has very few ties anymore to the Dodgers, but some might remember when former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy was closely following the exploits of his ball-playing son Chad. Tracy spent the Pirates' day off on Monday watching Chad, a catcher/outfielder for the Class A Clinton LumberKings, go 3-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs. It was the first time Jim Tracy had seen his son play a pro game.

"It was kind of a dream come true," Tracy told the Pittsburgh media.

Coming up: In Thursday's road trip finale at 9:05 a.m. PT, Derek Lowe (3-3, 3.89) opposes Sergio Mitre (0-2, 3.12).

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