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Notes: Saito throws off mound

Notes: Saito throws off mound

HOUSTON -- Takashi Saito threw off the mound on Wednesday with no irritation to his shoulder blade, and manager Grady Little said he was very optimistic his closer would be available for Thursday night's opener against the Rockies in Denver.

Saito, who has missed a week, spoke with reporters an hour before Little and said the "sharp pain" he experienced last week was gone. But he was more guarded about his return.

"I have to be sure the aftereffects of the injection will be gone," Saito said. "I have to see how my body reacts. Mainly, I want to get my feet wet and get the feel of the mound again."

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Little said he was comfortable enough about his bullpen's condition that no starter was on call on Wednesday night.

Kuo has another operation: Left-handed pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo underwent a fourth operation on his elbow on Wednesday, this time to remove a single loose body that was causing irritation when he threw. The arthroscopic procedure performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic lasted only 25 minutes.

Ordinarily, that would be considered a minor clean-up. But nothing is minor in the elbow of Kuo, which has undergone two Tommy John reconstructions, a scar tissue clean-up and now this, over the last seven years. He's likely out for the year and the Dodgers might even find themselves having to talk Kuo out of retiring. Kuo has hinted to teammates that would be a consideration if he needed another operation.

"If anyone knows what to do in a rehab assignment, it's him," Little said. "It's been unfortunate for the kid. We feel he's got a lot of talent."

Kuo opened the season on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. He spent most of June active and was 1-4 with a 7.42 ERA, starting six of eight games. He was disabled June 30 with elbow irritation.

Wolf scheduled: Randy Wolf was scheduled to pitch in a Minor League rehab start on Wednesday night for Class A Inland Empire. Depending on his endurance, he might require a second Minor League start, or he could be activated for next week.

Seanez responds: Rudy Seanez, who has allowed five home runs in his last 4 2/3 innings -- including Craig Biggio's game-winning grand slam Tuesday night -- said his problem is not overuse.

"I don't feel tired at all," said the 38-year-old, who has been a workhorse over the first 100 games. "It's just something mechanically, and I'll see if I can work it out. It's real slight, but it's there. I can usually fix it right away."

Lineup switch: Little was evasive when explaining why he would start Wilson Betemit over Nomar Garciaparra at third base on Wednesday night against right-hander Matt Albers.

"It's Betemit's turn to play," he said.

Little said he also was thinking about starting Betemit at second base on Thursday night in place of Jeff Kent in Colorado.

Hull, yeah: Eric Hull, nearly two months after originally becoming a Major Leaguer, finally made his debut on Tuesday night with two hitless innings.

"It was awesome," said the 27-year-old Hull, signed as an undrafted free agent five years ago. "My heart was going 100 mph. My mind was racing. I was just concentrating on the catcher's glove. I almost didn't see the hitter. It's been a slow, steady climb, and I hope it doesn't end right here. I hope is lasts years and years."

Lasorda bobblehead: The Dodgers plan to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of Tommy Lasorda's induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame by giving away a bobblehead doll of Lasorda holding his Hall of Fame plaque. The bobblehead giveaway will be Friday, September 14 while the 10-year anniversary date is August 3. The first 50,000 fans will receive a bobblehead, and 80 autographed bobbleheads will randomly be given away.

In 1997, Lasorda was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in his first year of eligibility. He was the 14th manager and 52nd Dodger inducted into the Hall of Fame. Lasorda's uniform No. 2 was retired by the Dodgers on Aug. 15, 1997 and the main street that leads to the entrance of Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Fla., was renamed Tommy Lasorda Lane on March 5, 1997. Lasorda is only one of three living Hall of Fame Managers, along with Sparky Anderson and Earl Weaver.

Coming up: Brad Penny (12-1, 2.42) opposes Colorado's Rodrigo Lopez (5-3, 4.46) on Thursday night at 6:05 PT in the first of a four-game series at Coors Field.

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

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