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Notes: Gonzo's playing time dwindles

Notes: Gonzo's playing time dwindles

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LOS ANGELES -- Left fielder Luis Gonzalez was back in the starting lineup Tuesday night after sitting out Monday's game due to Dodgers manager Grady Little's decision to go with Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp.

The 39-year-old Gonzalez has started only four of the last nine games, and according to him, he isn't becoming accustomed to sitting on the bench. Gonzalez said that he understands the Dodgers are going with a younger group of players, but he has no intentions of getting comfortable as a bench player.

"We've got good young players here and they're playing well right now," Gonzalez said. "It's the direction that the team wants to go right now."

According to Little, the Dodgers are fielding the team that gives them the best chance to win, and with Ethier and Kemp both hitting well, Gonzalez has been left out of the loop.

"We're going to do what we think is right, for not only now, but the future," Little said. "We're trying to win the game tonight and at the same time we're looking at the future."

Gonzalez has struggled in the month of August, batting .237 with just one homer and eight RBIs. On the season, the veteran is hitting .278 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs in 113 games. Last season, Gonzalez saw his role reduced in Arizona and this year, he is experiencing a similar predicament with the Dodgers.

Despite the lack of playing time, Gonzalez is still committed to helping the Dodgers win and he said he understands Little's decision to go with the younger guys.

Kemp has emerged as a solid bat in the third spot in the lineup, hitting .333 with eight homers and 32 RBIs. In addition, Kemp provides speed on the basepaths and a strong arm in the outfield.

"He's a threat to hit the ball out of the park and he's a threat to get base hits," said Little of Kemp. "He's exciting on the bases, at times you'll see a throw coming to the plate and he'll outrun the ball. He has a world of talent."

Ethier, who plays right field when Gonzalez is in the lineup and left field when Kemp is in the lineup, has also hit well this season. He is second on the club with 28 doubles and leads the team in outfield assists with nine. Since June 20, Ethier is hitting .338 with five homers and 25 RBIs, solidifying his spot in the lineup.

Abreu and LaRoche: Infielders Tony Abreu and Andy LaRoche have shown significant improvement at Triple-A Las Vegas, and according to Little, both are on the fast track for a September callup.

Abreu, who has been suffering from an abdominal injury that has sidelined him since the All-Star break, was 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored in Monday's game with the 51's. Abreu was optioned to Las Vegas on July 18, and has been injured for most of the last two months.

According to Little, if Abreu continues to show that he is healthy, he will most likely be one of the players called up in September. Abreu hit .288 with a homer, 12 doubles and nine RBIs in 43 games with the Dodgers this season.

LaRoche, who missed three weeks in August because of a disc injury in his back, returned to the lineup for the 51's on Saturday and played Monday night, going 2-for-5 with two hits and two runs scored.

LaRoche struggled with the Dodgers when he was called up in early May, but according to Little, if he proves to be healthy, he will be another September callup.

"LaRoche played two out of the last three games and he pinch-hit in the other game," Little said. "I think one week is going to make a lot of difference for him."

Nomar update: Third baseman Nomar Garciaparra is closer to returning to the Dodgers lineup. On Tuesday, the veteran infielder took infield, hit and jogged prior to the game and did not show any noticeable signs of pain.

According to Little, Garciaparra will test his left calf when the team hits the road to play the San Diego Padres, and he could be activated as soon as next week.

"As soon as he can run and that's not far away, [he will return]," said Little. "He'll try towards the end of the week this week, and he feels like he'll be ready pretty soon."

Winning ways: Derek Lowe's victory Monday night gave him six consecutive seasons with at least 11 victories. The only other pitchers in baseball to accomplish that feat are Roy Oswalt, Tim Hudson and C.C. Sabathia. Greg Maddux is one win away while Mark Buehrle is two wins short of joining that group this season.

Money man: Ramon Martinez's game-winning sacrifice fly in Monday night's game gave him an RBI in six consecutive games played, tying Kemp for the Dodgers' season high. Martinez has 23 hits and 25 RBIs this season.

Coming up: All-Star Brad Penny (14-4, 2.65 ERA) takes on Nationals right-hander Shawn Hill (3-3, 2.31) on Wednesday at 12:10 p.m. PT at Dodger Stadium.

Jayson Addcox is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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