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Little likes Tomko’s stuff, if not results

Times Staff Writer

Manager Grady Little tried Saturday to put a positive spin on pitcher Brett Tomko’s recent struggles, saying he’s confident the right-hander will turn things around soon.

“You can still see the ball coming out of his hand [well],” Little said of Tomko, who fell to 1-7 with a 6.18 earned-run average with a 10th-inning loss on Friday. “He has it. He just has to go through a spell where he’s getting better results.”

It would be difficult to get worse results. Tomko, who started the season in the rotation and was demoted to the bullpen in May, has given up eight runs in his last five appearances, covering 5 2/3 innings. In 24 2/3 innings as a reliever, he has a 6.57 ERA and opponents are batting .327 against him.

“We try to talk to him and see if we can help him get through this. It’s not the first time he’s been through something like this,” Little said of Tomko, who split time between the rotation and bullpen last season but fared much better as a reliever.

“What else can we do? We can’t turn ahead the clock. We can’t turn back the clock. You’ve got to face the situation you run into at the time and try to fix them. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

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Little may have few other choices. The Dodgers, who owe nearly $21 million to pitchers on the disabled list, would have to eat the remainder of Tomko’s $4.1 million if they were to let him go.

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Mark Hendrickson, scheduled to start today’s game for the Dodgers, will be coming back on short rest, having thrown five innings and 77 pitches in a loss to the Braves on Wednesday. That means Little probably will have to call on his bullpen early.

“I don’t think we’ll be asking the starter ... for a lot of innings,” Little said before Saturday’s game.

The problem is, Dodgers pitchers, especially relievers, have been overworked lately. The Dodgers today finish a streak of 20 games in 20 days -- the maximum allowed under union rules -- and the bullpen entered Saturday having pitched 24 innings in the previous five days.

“The way this week’s gone, we’re going to do what we need to get through [today] and then we’re going to have some days off,” Hendrickson said. “It is what it is. I’ve learned as a veteran that there are times when I’m not 100% but I don’t let it distract me. It’s just something you do.”

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Tony Abreu was a late scratch from the lineup after complaining of abdominal cramps. The rookie infielder was examined by doctors just before game time, and his availability today remained uncertain.

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Jeff Kent’s fourth-inning single ran his hitting streak to six games. He began Saturday batting .429 in July, with multiple hits in five of his last eight games. ... Friday’s crowd of 51,050 pushed the Dodgers past the 2 million mark in attendance for a record 34th consecutive season. The last time the team failed to draw at least 2 million was 1972, when season attendance totaled 1.86 million.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com


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