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Notes: Saito targeting Friday return

Notes: Saito eyes Friday return

SAN DIEGO -- Injured closer Takashi Saito could return to game action as soon as Friday after feeling no pain in his injured left hamstring during a brief bullpen test before Wednesday night's game.

Saito threw a dozen pitches each from the windup and stretch, then came off the mound to field a couple of balls rolled to simulate bunts. At this point, it is Saito's ability to field his position without re-injuring the hamstring that is the greatest concern.

"He felt fine and tomorrow we'll have him out here early to make sure he's OK covering first base and it won't be irritable in the area and if everything goes fine, he could be back Friday," said manager Grady Little. "We have to make sure he can field bunts and cover first without re-injuring it. The way he does in the bullpen is not nearly game speed. We'll have to rely totally on his honesty."

Saito suffered the injury warming up for an appearance Sunday in Pittsburgh and came out of that game in the middle of an at-bat when he felt pain high in the left hamstring.

Saito's absence has left Little shorthanded in the bullpen, a situation that impacted the outcome of Tuesday night's 1-0 loss, when Little tried to milk a second inning out of reliever Rudy Seanez. The Padres scored the only run off Seanez in the eighth, an inning that normally belongs to Jonathan Broxton, who has been moved to the ninth inning as Saito's replacement at closer.

Chad Billingsley was not available Tuesday night after warming up twice Monday and pitching two innings Sunday. The Dodgers are trying not to use Billingsley, a converted starter, more than two consecutive days.

Elbert has surgery: Left-handed pitcher Scott Elbert, the Dodgers' first-round pick in 2004, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his throwing shoulder Tuesday and will be out two to three months.

Elbert, generally considered one of the organization's top pitching prospect, tried to rehab the injury for the last month. Dr. Neal Elattrache repaired torn labrum and removed scar tissue. Elbert will rehab in Vero Beach, Fla.

The 21-year-old Elbert was 0-1 with a 3.86 ERA, 24 strikeouts and 10 walks in 14 innings for Double-A Jacksonville before being sidelined.

Anderson to Vegas: Outfielder Marlon Anderson, one month removed from elbow surgery, will begin a Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment Thursday at Triple-A Las Vegas. For Anderson, the assignment amounts to Spring Training, which he essentially missed this year because he was limited after an earlier elbow operation at season's end.

"My elbow feels fine. Now I have to get some at-bats and get my legs under me," said Anderson, who was a big contributor down the stretch last year filling in for left fielder Andre Ethier with seven homers in 64 at-bats after his trade from Washington.

"I haven't played the field and I have to make sure my legs are OK. My elbow is really not a concern. It feels as fine as it's felt in a long time. The timetable is whatever it's going to be. I'll be back before 20 days."

Minor League assignments last no longer than 20 days without the consent of the player.

Little on Pierre: The Dodgers haven't figured a way to correct it, but they are convinced Juan Pierre's offensive problems are primarily the angle of his bat during the swing, which leads to far too many fly balls for a player whose primary skill is running speed.

Little was asked if he was disturbed by Pierre's 0-for-4 on seven pitches Tuesday night, if he had spoken to Pierre about it and if Pierre was receptive to suggestions. Little answered "yes" three times.

"He knows he's got to be better," Little said. "He wasn't seeing many pitches the other day when he had four extra-base hits. The angle of his bat isn't right. Anyone's job at the top of the lineup is to get on base and score runs. He knows he's been better in the past and needs to be better now. He was out here early trying to make it better and that's all we can do."

Pierre is hitting .269 with a .298 on-base percentage and .318 slugging percentage. He's scored 34 runs with 66 hits and 18 stolen bases, projecting to 95 runs, 184 hits and 50 steals. Pierre has career averages of .303, .350 on-base percentage, .377 slugging percentage and has 200 hits in four of the last six seasons.

Flight followup: The Dodgers' rather "routine" emergency landing Tuesday morning, caused by a malfunctioning warning light in the cockpit, reminded longtime traveling secretary Billy DeLury of the closest the club came to a real travel emergency.

"In the mid-1980s we were coming home from San Francisco after a Sunday day game and we got about 15 minutes out of San Francisco and blew an engine," recalled DeLury. "There was a loud noise and the plane shook pretty good. After a few minutes, the pilot regained control and turned around and we landed in San Francisco and changed planes and got home. I've never seen so many white knuckles in my life."

Coming up: In Thursday night's trip finale, Hong-Chih Kuo (0-1, 7.71) makes his second start of the season, facing Padres ace Jake Peavy (7-1, 1.68).

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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