Notes: Little considers more of Wells

Notes: Wells to bump Stults?

NEW YORK -- Practicing the art of positive thinking, Dodgers manager Grady Little was already pondering the possibility of pitching David Wells a second time before seeing him in blue a first time.

Initially saying he would keep his rotation as is in the coming week, Little allowed for an audible and said his real hope would be to take advantage of the Thursday day off and bring back Wells to pitch against his former San Diego Padres teammates Friday night in the opener of a crucial three-game weekend series.

"Once we get past Wednesday, we'll see," said Little. "There's a chance we might come back with him Friday. Let's see how he makes it through this one today. If everything goes smoothly. ..."

That would mean skipping Eric Stults, Saturday's loser against the Mets, and bringing back Derek Lowe, who pitches Monday night, on Saturday, and Chad Billingsley, who pitches Tuesday night, on Sunday. Lowe, Billingsley and Brad Penny are scheduled to start against Washington at home over the next three days.

Little was optimistic that Wells would handle the Sunday start successfully.

"He hasn't pitched in three weeks, but I have a lot of confidence," Little said. "I don't know everything he has in his belly, but he has a lot of competitive spirit in there."

Little, however, offered no guess as to how many innings or pitches he would get out of the 44-year-old, who had not pitched in three weeks and had not won in six weeks.

Kent exits after beaning: Dodgers second baseman Jeff Kent was hit on the left earflap by a 91-mph fastball from Mets starter John Maine in the third inning of Sunday night's game.

Kent, leading off the fourth inning with the Dodgers trailing, 2-1, remained on his feet but left the game after being attended to by trainer Stan Conte and Little.

It was the fifth time this year that Kent has been hit by a pitch.

Defending Hillenbrand: Little said the raw statistics don't tell the whole story of Shea Hillenbrand, who has taken over third base for the injured Nomar Garciaparra pretty much since he was signed as a free agent Aug. 13.

"He's done a good job filling in," Little said. "He's hit in a little bad luck since he's been here. Defensively, he's been very, very good."

Hillenbrand has made the routine plays with one error. Offensively, the numbers don't look so good -- a .244 batting average, .341 slugging percentage and .273 on-base percentage. Garciaparra's numbers are better across the board -- .280, .363, .326. Hillenbrand has four RBIs in 41 at-bats.

Martin rested: Despite needing a Sunday night win to avoid a series sweep, Little stuck with his plan to start Mike Lieberthal behind the plate and rest Russell Martin. He said it wasn't because Martin was dragging, but in hopes of preventing that.

"He's certainly not dragging right now, but we're trying to catch that before it does happen," said Little. "Playing the game as hard as he does, if we play till midnight tonight and fly all night and he comes back and plays tomorrow evening, I think you'd see it right away."

Martin has caught 117 games, Lieberthal only 12 prior to Sunday. Little said he disregards the club's 2-10 mark when Lieberthal starts.

"A guy who's caught as little as Mike has this year, to start talking about his cumulative stats would be unfair," he said. "I'm not going to judge a catcher who's caught as little has he has on any kind of numbers."

Denker dealt: The Dodgers sent Minor League second baseman Travis Denker to the Giants on Saturday to complete the Aug. 9 acquisition of left-handed pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney. Denker, 22, was hitting .294 (118-for-402) with 65 runs, 27 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 57 RBIs and eight stolen bases for Class A Inland Empire of the California League this year.

Salute to a scout: Longtime Dodgers scout Dale McReynolds died last week in Walworth, Wis. McReynolds, 85, scouted the Midwest for the Dodgers and was responsible for signing 1980 NL Rookie of the Year Steve Howe and right-hander Bob Welch, among many others throughout his career. McReynolds scouted for the Dodgers for 25 years and in 1987 was named Midwest Scout of the Year by Baseball America. He previously scouted for Kansas City and Cincinnati.

Penny 'Before the Bigs': FSN Prime Ticket will debut "Before the Bigs: Brad Penny" prior to the start of the Dodgers-Nationals game Monday night at 6:30 p.m. PT. The show will also air following "Dodgers Live" after the game. The FSN Prime Ticket crew traveled to Penny's hometown of Broken Arrow, Okla., and visited with his family and friends.

Coming up: Lowe (10-11, 3.47) opposes Washington's Mike Bacsik (5-7, 4.61) in Monday night's opener of a three-game homestand.

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