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Notes: Kent returns to the field
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07/08/2004 10:59 PM ET
Notes: Kent returns to the field
Second baseman returns from hamstring injury
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Jeff Kent was kept out of the lineup for eight games with a strained hamstring. (Brian Kersey/AP)
LOS ANGELES -- Astros second baseman Jeff Kent returned to the lineup on Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, his strained right hamstring sound enough to allow him to play after an eight-game layoff.

"Is he 100 percent?" manager Jimy Williams asked before the game. "Maybe, he's close to it. We'll find out."

Williams said there were no restrictions placed on Kent, although he acknowledged that the medical plan all along was to bring Kent back slowly. It was more prudent to err on the side of caution.

But even Williams sounded uncertain about what to expect from his second baseman.

"Let's go watch him play," Williams said. "We've tried to be cautious. We tried to use common sense. When you start talking about legs, quads and hams, it takes time for them to heal. Hopefully, we've done the right thing."

Kent, who addressed his teammates during a players-only meeting after Tuesday's loss to the San Diego Padres, said he's been frustrated by the layoff and hoped to lead the Astros on the field rather than in the clubhouse.

Kent batted .293 with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in before he was injured. He batted fifth for the Astros on Thursday against Dodgers rookie right-hander Edwin Jackson. He flied out in his first at-bat.

"We're going to find out [about Kent tonight]," Williams said. "He's worked hard, taking ground balls and running hard out of the box yesterday. Hopefully, he passed the test well enough."

In addition to Kent, the Astros also welcomed right-hander Brandon Duckworth back to the mound. Duckworth, who last pitched for the Astros on June 7, started Thursday against the Dodgers.

   Roger Clemens  /   P
Born: 08/04/62
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 235 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R

Jaywalking: Roger Clemens made his first appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," taping the show between 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. PT in beautiful downtown Burbank before arriving at Dodger Stadium.

Clemens had been a guest of David Letterman on his late night show while pitching for the New York Yankees.

Thursday's show had a distinctly Texas feel to it, with Clemens joining actress/musician Hilary Duff, a Houston native, and musical guests Los Lonely Boys, who hail from San Angelo, Texas. Los Lonely Boys also will be playing at the All-Star Gala next week at Houston.

Outwardly, at least, Williams sounded unimpressed about Clemens' visit with Leno.

"Jay Leno?" Williams deadpanned. "He can't hit."

In praise of Carlos: Williams had this to say about center fielder Carlos Beltran, acquired June 24 from the Kansas City Royals: "He has all the tools working for him so far. He plays very hard. He has a calm intensity. He plays with intensity,, but he's under control. He expects a lot of himself, and he can do a lot of things. "He can hit a home run or, as an outfielder, steal a home run."

Closing comments: Like a good many closers, Astros reliever Brad Lidge marveled at the Major League-record streak of 84 consecutive saves by the Dodgers' Eric Gagne, which finally came to end earlier this week. The streak lasted almost two years, a mind-boggling achievement as far as Lidge is concerned.

"It really will be difficult to put into perspective until time has passed," said Lidge, who had converted a modest five consecutive saves since June 22.

"That streak is going to hold up over the decades. The talent and luck involved is remarkable. It takes luck, defense and an extraordinary amount of talent, and he's got it."

Elliott Teaford is a contributor for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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