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Little Is Planning Ahead on Garciaparra

Times Staff Writer

Grady Little considers the rest he gave Nomar Garciaparra on Sunday an investment in the first baseman’s continued health.

And if the manager is correct, the result eventually would be a handsome dividend for Garciaparra, who has contract incentives worth $500,000 for every 25 plate appearances beginning at 400 and ending at 575.

That’s a potential $4 million on top of the $6 million he is guaranteed.

Garciaparra has come to the plate 317 times so far, playing nearly every day since leaving the disabled list April 22. He lost four plate appearances by taking the game off. Little believes it’s worth it in the long run.

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“He’s been going hard for a long time,” he said. “Giving Nomar this day off could make him good for the next month or two.”

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Second baseman Jeff Kent is one for 11 since electing to play rather than go on the disabled list because of an abdominal muscle injury. Although he will remain in the lineup, he said the injury would heal faster if he had more rest.

“It’s making progress,” he said, adding wryly, “Playing has always impeded my health.”

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Said Little: “There’s not a lot of grimacing on his face after he swings. Maybe he’s not 100%, but every time he goes to the plate, he’s a threat.”

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The Dodgers scored only six runs in 42 innings and batted .202 in four losses to the St. Louis Cardinals, but Little said the focus as the trading deadline approaches remains shoring up the starting rotation.

Kent seconds that sentiment, saying that for the Dodgers to win the division, “Pitching is the biggest factor, it’s huge.

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“That’s why [starting] pitchers are paid $20 million to play once every five days. I’m not saying that’s our problem. But that’s where it starts and that’s why teams place such a value on it.”

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Embattled pitcher Odalis Perez said his confidence was boosted in a meeting with Little and General Manager Ned Colletti, prompted by his comments that the Dodgers didn’t respect him.

“It was very positive,” Perez said. “They know it’s tough when you are going out there and not doing your job.

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“Grady said he might give me one more opportunity to get in the starting rotation. Until then I have to be in the bullpen and prove myself.”

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Third baseman Cesar Izturis flew to L.A. because his wife, Liliana, is scheduled to give birth to the couple’s second child today. Izturis will sit out at least the first two games of the four-game series against Arizona.

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Little plans to ask Braden Looper to sign a baseball for his 7-year-old grandson, whose name was inspired by the Cardinals reliever.

Little’s son, Eric, and his wife named their son Braden after scanning major league rosters. They didn’t know much about Looper, but his first name stood out.

“You know how a lot of young parents look through a book that lists every name out there?” Little said. “These kids picked one by looking through the box scores in the newspaper.”


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