Notes: Saenz tries to stay sharp
Opportunities at a premium for pinch-hitter extraordinaire
LOS ANGELES -- Olmedo Saenz has two hits in his last six at-bats, which might sound like modest totals until compared to his 1-for-July and 4-for-June.
The hits have been few and far between for the popular pinch-hitter, but so have the opportunities to stay sharp, and one tends to follow the other.
Saenz has been a Dodger longer than anyone on the current roster, but in the past two seasons, he's enjoyed enough spot starts and injury relief to keep his hitting stroke. That hasn't happened this year. Saenz has 91 at-bats, compared to 179 last year and a career-high 319 in 2005. He's batting .189.
"It's been tough," said Saenz. "It's hard to be ready, but this is my job and this is the game of baseball. You've got to battle. I've been working hard and I feel like maybe it's coming back after I got those three at-bats in the [Aug. 9] game in Cincinnati."
At age 36, Saenz said he hasn't spent time worrying about his job security.
"You can't play the game that way," he said. "You can't be afraid of things out of your hands. You can't be afraid of decisions they're going to make. It's like playing the game afraid you make an error. That's when you mess up."
Sweeney gets a start: Infielder Mark Sweeney, who is 2-for-2 on the current homestand, made his first start as a Dodger at first base in place of James Loney on Friday night.
Sweeney, who was primarily used as a pinch-hitter with the San Francisco Giants, has made nine starts at first base this season. Sweeney leads the Majors with 18 pinch-hits this season, and his 157 career pinch-hits are second all-time behind former Dodger Lenny Harris, who had 212.
"My focus isn't really on success and failure," said Sweeney of his success as a pinch-hitter. "A lot of what I do comes down to video work, preparedness and experience."
Sweeney is hitting .429 (6-for-14) this month and leads all active players with 15 pinch-hit home runs and 97 pinch-hit RBIs. Sweeney said he understands his main role on the team is as a left-handed pinch-hitter, but he said he approaches every day as if he were starting.
Manager Grady Little said his lineup change was prompted both to give Sweeney at-bats and to rest Loney, who was hitless the past two games.
Kemp update: Matt Kemp was not in the starting lineup Friday night to rest a knee bruised when he crashed into the right-field fence Wednesday night. Kemp said he could play, but he was limping noticeably during Thursday night's game.
"He's available to pinch-hit tonight, but we'll give him a day or so," said Little. "He'll be back tomorrow or Sunday. He said it doesn't bother him, but it sure is ugly. It's discolored from contact with the wall."
Stults getting a look: Eric Stults, who lost his only other Major League start this year, started Friday night, and Little said he would probably get another start next weekend against the Mets in New York, where he recorded his first Major League victory last year.
Little said he believes Stults is most effective as a starter with a regular routine, rather than out of the bullpen.
"It's what he's known through his career coming up through the Minor Leagues," Little said.
For Stults to start next Friday in New York, the Dodgers apparently will use Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley to start in Philadelphia.
Wolf checks in: Randy Wolf, sidelined since July 4 with shoulder capsulitis, said he's hopeful of resuming playing catch on next week's trip to Philadelphia, but he's realistic enough to see that time is running out on his return to the Dodgers this season.
"If it doesn't work out this time," said Wolf, "it can't happen this year."
Wolf has been undergoing therapy at the Kerlan-Jobe Clinic with an emphasis on proper muscle firing.
Viva los Dodgers: The 10th annual Viva los Dodgers Hispanic Heritage festival, presented by Toyota, Coca Cola and Time Warner Cable, will be held Saturday. The event will run from 1-6 p.m. PT in the Dodger Stadium parking lot and feature appearances and autographs from Dodger players as well as live music from Gloria Trevi, among many others. The festival is free for all fans with a ticket to Saturday night's game.
Coming up: Billingsley (7-4, 3.54) opposes Franklin Morales on Saturday night at 7:10 PT. Billingsley will be looking to snap a four-game losing streak. Morales will be making his Major League debut.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.