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Notes: Club slows down Saito

Notes: Club slows down Saito

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Takashi Saito said he still felt tightness in his strained right calf muscle during a 21-pitch bullpen session on Friday, and manager Joe Torre said his closer would not try again until he's 100 percent.

"My advice to him is that he has to be totally free of discomfort," said Torre. "He barely felt it, but that's unacceptable. We'll protect him."

Saito said his discomfort is on the inside of the calf and he feels it only when he pushes off the rubber. Last spring, he was slowed by tightness on the outside of the same calf.

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Saito could not say for sure whether he would be ready by Opening Day.

"Of course, I'd like to be ready, but pitching in the bullpen is not the same as game situations," he said. "I don't want to be on the mound Opening Day if I'm worried about my calf. If I have to, I would tell the coaches I'm not ready. I don't want to affect the team because of an injury. I would like to be 100 percent."

Torre said a closer should have nine or 10 spring innings to be ready for the season.

More injury updates: Jeff Kent was able to hit and play catch despite a strained hamstring that Torre said "isn't as serious as first thought." Kent is not expected to run for about a week.

Rudy Seanez, recovering from a groin strain, pitched batting practice.

"I felt fine, but I pitched bad," said Seanez, who wasn't pleased with his location. He could appear in a game as soon as Sunday.

Tony Abreu started at second base, marking his first game action of the spring after October surgery for a sports hernia.

Game recap: Chad Billingsley, working on his changeup, allowed three home runs in three innings of a wind-blown 6-4 loss to the Cardinals. Billingsley said the groin strain that slowed him last week was not a factor.

In addition to Garciaparra, Andruw Jones slugged his first homer as a Dodger and Andre Ethier hit his second of the spring.

Kershaw update: Torre said there are tentative plans for top pitching prospect Clayton Kershaw to start a Major League exhibition game next week. Kershaw, who turns 20 later this month, could sneak into the starting rotation as the fifth man if he continues to impress management the way he did Tuesday night, when he was clocked at 97 mph eight times.

Pregame meeting: Torre held a one-hour meeting to discuss, among other things, situational hitting after a series of poor at-bats in Thursday's game with the Red Sox.

"Look at our record -- we're playing a lot of one-run games and coming out on the short end more often than not," he said. "Whether it's bunting a runner over or not walking the first batter, those things can put the game on the other side of the ledger. The players think about what gets the most attention on ESPN -- a lot more goes into winning a game."

Minor League camp: It officially opens on Saturday with the first full-squad workout. The first Minor League Spring Training game will be played March 14, and the last will be on March 29.

Coming up: Hiroki Kuroda will make his third start of the spring on Saturday at Jupiter, Fla., against the Cardinals. The game also is expected to mark the return of Hong-Chih Kuo, who has missed a week with elbow irritation. Greg Miller, Mike Koplove, Justin Orenduff, Mario Alvarez, Tanyon Sturtze and Tom Martin also are listed to pitch for the Dodgers against Braden Looper, Russ Springer, Ron Villone and Kelvin Jimenez.

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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