MIAMI -- For the past three seasons, Olmedo Saenz was the Dodgers' not-so-secret weapon.In almost exclusively a bench role during that time, Saenz had 34 home runs and 133 RBIs in 609 at-bats. Despite his success, particularly in crucial, late-inning situations, opposing clubs generally challenged him. But he said he's found the going tougher this year. "They're working me a lot more this year," said Saenz, who homered on Wednesday night in a rare start filling in at first base for the slumping Nomar Garciaparra. "They're pitching around me, and I've got to be more selective." Saenz has played in 23 games this year, but he has only 25 at-bats with two homers, five RBIs and a .240 batting average. He is 4-for-11 against left-handed pitching, but an uncharacteristic 2-for-14 against right-handers. "I haven't been swinging at strikes," he said. "They're not throwing me as many fastballs. They've been working me with a lot of offspeed, and I've been chasing pitches out of the strike zone, being too aggressive." Lineup shuffled: Saenz was not asked to double back for the early game on Thursday. Garciaparra returned to first base as manager Grady Little came up with an entirely new infield from the night before. Joining Garciaparra was Ramon Martinez at second base instead of Jeff Kent, Wilson Valdez at shortstop instead of Rafael Furcal and Wilson Betemit at third base instead of Andy LaRoche. Kent and Furcal were just getting days off. Betemit started for the first time in five days, but the move is likely to be very temporary, as Little raved about LaRoche, who is 4-for-10 with three RBIs and five walks. "He's been impressive," Little said. "You have the feeling when he goes to the plate that you're ready to see something happen." With Furcal out, Little moved Juan Pierre to leadoff, even though Pierre was coming off a disappointing game Wednesday night, going hitless with five flyouts, unable to take advantage of his speed. "[Pierre] knows this. We talked this morning," said Little. "He was probably a bit anxious in this park, in this environment, and going against his good friend, Dontrelle Willis, didn't help any. It's not just one game, it's taken place a while. There are adjustments he has to make, and I'm sure he'll make it. He hit balls on the screws, but we're not looking for hang time like an NFL punter. When he comes to the plate, scouts take out their stopwatches, but not for hang time. He has to hit on a line or on the ground." Brazoban clears hurdle: Little has been candid about his belief the club will need to add a 12th pitcher sooner rather than later. He prefers hard throwers that can pitch multiple innings, and Yhency Brazoban cleared a significant hurdle on Wednesday night when he pitched two scoreless innings for Triple-A Las Vegas for the first time since undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery 12 1/2 months ago. "That was a little bit more like it," said Little. "His velocity was great." In six appearances with Las Vegas, he has seven strikeouts and three walks in seven innings and a 1.29 ERA. Brazoban once held the Dodgers' single-season rookie record for saves (since broken by Takashi Saito), but has been used setting up by the 51s. The other candidate for promotion is Hong-Chih Kuo, the favorite for the fifth starter spot until he strained his shoulder in Spring Training. Kuo has been more successful as a starter and has a 4.32 ERA, but his 15 strikeouts in 8 1/3 innings for Las Vegas are hard to ignore. Kuo is scheduled to start again Saturday. Billingsley's role: Little said Wednesday that Chad Billingsley would eventually return to a starting role, but the converted reliever said he can't worry about when. "I'm focusing on the bullpen," he said. "In camp, they said that's where I'll be, not for the rest of my career, but for now. Look at our starters, they're all pitching well, so why should I be worried about being a starter? I'm happy right here as long as we continue to win." Arias throws no-hitter: Class A Inland Empire right-hander Marlon Arias tossed a no-hitter on Wednesday night, beating the Bakersfield Blaze, 2-0. Arias struck out 10 batters and walked two, the only two batters to reach base during the game. Arias is a 22-year-old left-hander from the Dominican Republic. Coming up: Randy Wolf (3-3, 4.61 ERA) opposes Bronson Arroyo (2-2, 2.85) and the Reds at 7:40 p.m. PT on Friday night at Dodger Stadium in the opener of a six-game homestand.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.