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Kent says his injury isn’t serious

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Times Staff Writers

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Jeff Kent downplayed the seriousness of his strained right hamstring Thursday, saying he would be ready to take batting practice today on his 40th birthday. Kent said the strain was mild enough that he probably would be playing in the Dodgers’ game against the St. Louis Cardinals if it were a regular-season contest.

“Because I’ve got time, I can take time,” he said, adding that he wouldn’t play in any exhibition games for a week.

Kent, who sat out the Dodgers’ 9-6 comeback victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday, blamed himself for getting hurt the previous day in pregame warmups at the New York Mets’ spring training facility. The Dodgers took batting practice in Vero Beach before leaving because rain had soaked the field at Port St. Lucie.

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“Sitting in the bus with your knees in a tight spot for a long bus ride after batting practice, that’s probably what did it,” he said. “I should’ve known better. I should’ve told [Manager Joe Torre] that I wasn’t going to go.”

Torre said that when he managed the New York Yankees, it wasn’t uncommon for his team to hit at home on the day of road games when the weather made it impossible to take batting practice at the game site.

Because of Kent’s situation, Torre said it was vital that he observe Tony Abreu in game action over the next several days. Torre will head to China on Wednesday with a split squad for a pair of exhibition games against the San Diego Padres, and Abreu won’t be among the players making the trip.

Abreu hasn’t played in a game this spring because of complications stemming from off-season abdominal surgery but was expected to make his spring debut either today or Saturday.

“Coming in, he seemed to be the one that would be doing most of the second base action when Jeff wasn’t,” Torre said. “My first priority right now is to get as much information on Abreu as I possibly can.”

Torre said he hasn’t ruled out Nomar Garciaparra as a potential replacement for Kent, though he admitted he had yet to rule out anything because he hadn’t had much time to ponder the situation.

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Rivalry turns friendly

Facing the Boston Red Sox while wearing a Dodgers uniform was a much different experience than facing them wearing a Yankees uniform, Torre said. Torre took photographs with Red Sox Manager Terry Francona behind home plate before the game, something that would have been unthinkable when he was with the Yankees.

“It’s nice to chat with him without someone thinking there’s some covert operation going on,” Torre said.

Torre and Francona’s father, Tito, were teammates on the Atlanta Braves in 1967-68, and they spoke during the game Thursday, as Tito visited him by the side of the dugout.

As for the game . . .

The Dodgers came back from three runs down in the ninth inning, tying the score at 5-5 on a three-run home run by Lucas May and pulling ahead on a grand slam by Jason Repko.

Repko, who missed all of last season because of a torn left hamstring, is leaving such an impression on Torre this spring that even if he doesn’t make the club, “we’re not going to forget him,” Torre said.

Repko said he hasn’t been thinking about how his chances of making the club could be compromised by the number of outfielders on the roster. “I’m having success,” he said. “I’m not going to change right now.”

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Dodgers starter Derek Lowe, who gave up five runs and six hits in two-plus innings, said he was let down by his high fastball, something he tried working on starting late last season to change eye levels. Lowe says he thinks the pitch could be effective against low-ball-hitting teams such as Colorado.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

bill.plaschke@latimes.com

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