Notes: Little trying to get offense going

Notes: Little trying to get offense going

LOS ANGELES -- Jeff Kent missed his fourth consecutive start Friday night with a left hamstring strain that continues to improve, but not far or fast enough for the Dodgers offense.

Manager Grady Little, after expressing concern that his hitters were pressing while stranding 13 runners on Thursday night against the Giants, stacked the lineup Friday night with right-handed hitters to face Arizona left-handed starting pitcher Doug Davis.

Replacing Kent in the cleanup spot was Olmedo Saenz, who has been caught in the cycle often afflicting pinch-hitters who get rusty without regular action. Saenz is hitting .185, and since June 23 is a staggering 1-for-20. Saenz has 81 at-bats through Thursday night; he had 150 at this point last season.

"He just keeps continuing working to get back on the right track," Little said. "Nobody works harder than Olmedo Saenz. He's just not getting four opportunities a game. He gets one at-bat."

Saenz played first base on Friday night for James Loney, who is in a 3-for-21 slide. Ramon Martinez started at second base for Kent. Switch-hitting Delwyn Young got his first Major League start in place of former Diamondback Luis Gonzalez in left field.

Lowe a go: Derek Lowe has passed every test they can give his irritated hip short of the ultimate test, which comes Saturday night when he starts for the first time since leaving a start July 25 with sharp pain to his left groin area, diagnosed as irritation in the hip.

Lowe said he's confident the pain was an aggravation of a Minor League injury brought on by warming up for a July 22 relief appearance without stretching. He said an aggressive stretching program should help him avoid a recurrence.

Proctor and teacher: Scott Proctor emerged as a Major Leaguer after the Dodgers traded him to the Yankees in the 2003 deadline deal for Robin Ventura. But Proctor credits current Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt for helping make it possible.

At the time of the trade, Honeycutt was the club's Minor League pitching coordinator.

"He helped me tremendously," said Proctor. "He turned my delivery around and got me from throwing in the upper 80s [miles an hour] to the mid-90s. He taught me to use my lower half and take the pressure off my arm. I got to the Yankees and hit 97. I'm not sure why, but something Honeycutt said finally clicked. I'm sure adrenaline and the [Yankee Stadium] environment came into play."

Proctor said Honeycutt provided examples of successful pitchers to emulate.

"He broke down the deliveries of Mariano [Rivera] and [Roger] Clemens and [Sandy] Koufax," he said. "He had me mimic certain points of their delivery. It was ironic that I would end up in the bullpen with Mariano and on the same staff as Clemens, along with [Andy] Pettitte and [Mike] Mussina. That staff right there, that's a wealth of knowledge to learn from."

Honeycutt said Proctor came to Spring Training that year asking for tips to improve. A slight delivery flaw was detected and the transformation was "quick and dramatic," which left Honeycutt disappointed that Proctor was included in the trade for Ventura.

"It was like he was a throw-in and nobody asked us, but those of us who saw him regularly realized he was just starting to get good," said Honeycutt. "The Yankees did their homework. We gave up a guy who was just starting to throw 97. I remember he called me a week after the trade. He was at Triple-A and [Yankees owner George] Steinbrenner was at the game and he was clocked at 100 [mph] three times."

Proctor gave up a run Thursday night, but Honeycutt said Proctor's delivery was "a little out of whack" and a small adjustment worked on Friday should help.

Best tools: Loney and Tony Abreu were named best defensive first and second basemen in the Pcific Coast League in the "Best Tools" edition of Baseball America. Double-A Jacksonville right-hander Jon Meloan was rated as the best reliever in the Southern League, where Chin-lung Hu took home best defensive shortstop honors and John Shoemaker was named the best managerial prospect. Class A Inland Empire skipper Dave Collins took home the same honors in the California League and right-hander James McDonald was rated as having the best breaking ball in the Cal League. Finally, left-hander Clayton Kershaw of the Class A Great Lakes Loons was named the best pitching prospect and owner of the best fastball in the Midwest League.

Play Ball LA clinic: Approximately 25 young physically challenged athletes from Challenger Little Leaguers in El Segundo will receive instruction on Saturday from former Dodger legend Bobby Castillo and current Dodgers Andre Ethier and Saenz at Imperial Street Elementary School Field in El Segundo from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Coming up: D-backs righty Livan Hernandez (6-7, 4.98) opposes Lowe (8-9, 3.45) on Saturday night at 7:10 p.m. PT.

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