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Tuesday, March 27, 2012
Cactus League: Padres 6, Dodgers 5

By Tony Jackson

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Pretty much everybody in baseball likes to complain that spring training is too long. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly wasn't exactly complaining after Tuesday's Cactus League game, a 6-5, come-from-ahead-in-the-bottom-of-the-ninth-inning loss to a San Diego Padres split squad at Peoria Sports Complex, but he did seem to imply that the only things that can really happen in the five days that remain before the team breaks camp on Sunday, and the three exhibition games back home after that, are bad things.

"Overall, we're pretty close to being ... ready," Mattingly said. "Now, it's just keeping bad habits out because of the time of (spring) and worrying about injuries. Early on, you have time to deal with it. But it's getting late, so if they happen now, it's trouble."

Among the evidence that this team is ready for its April 5 opener against these same Padres is the performance of the bullpen, which continues to stand out collectively, and of the middle of the lineup, where Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera combined to go 6-for-11 with two doubles, a triple and a home run.

The homer, a shot beyond the visiting bullpen in left field, and one of the doubles came from Rivera, who figures to bat fifth most of the time this season. It was his fourth home run of the spring, he has driven in 10 runs, and he is now hitting .304 after a slow start.

Kemp had an RBI double and a sacrifice fly. He also struck out twice, something he now has done in exactly one-third of his plate appearances (17 of 51), but he still is hitting a cool .313 as he prepares for a season in which he says he wants to hit 50 homers and steal 50 bases.

And then, there is Ethier, who drove a triple to the base of the wall in right-center to cap a 2-for-4 afternoon and raise his spring average to .421, with 13 of his 16 hits having gone for extra bases. With free agency and his first long-term contract potentially awaiting in the fall, he appears to be locked in.



All of which leaves Mattingly to cross his fingers, perhaps hold his breath and hope the Dodgers can get through these final days of spring training incident-free. ...

The Dodgers didn't get through Tuesday incident-free.

Juan Uribe, who is expected to be the team's everyday third baseman this season, fouled a ball off his groin while trying to bunt during batting practice back at Camelback Ranch, resulting in him having to be scratched from the starting lineup. The injury isn't serious, and he is expected to return to the lineup as early as Wednesday. But that wasn't much solace to Uribe when it happened.

“I didn't see it,” Mattingly said. But when I came over there, he was lying down.” ...

Mattingly’s son, Preston, was released from minor league camp by the New York Yankees. He originally was a first-round sandwich pick of the Dodgers in 2006, two years before his father even came to work for the Dodgers. He hit a combined .232 last year for the Dodgers two Class A affiliates, Great Lakes (low) and Rancho Cucamonga (advanced).

Don Mattingly said he spoke to his son by telephone but didn't ask whether he plans to try to continue a professional career in which he never has climbed above Class A.

“I didn't feel like it was the time to ask,'' Mattingly said.