Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Ethier starts in Dodgers' home opener
By Tony Jackson
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier returned to the starting lineup for Tuesday's home opener with Arizona after missing two games and coming off the bench in two others because of a sprained left ankle.
Ethier went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer as the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks 9-5.
Ethier played the entire game even though Dodgers manager Joe Torre indicated pregame that he wasn't entirely confident that Ethier's ankle would hold up to the rigors of an entire game in right field. But Torre was comfortable that the injury had healed enough for Ethier to at least start the game.
"By the fifth or sixth inning, I don't know," Torre said. "But he feels fine. The only thing that may take a toll is that he may get a little weary. We'll know later on."
Ethier's absence hasn't exactly been glaring for the Dodgers, who are 2-0 when Ethier doesn't appear in a game and 0-4 when he does. Still, he was arguably their most valuable offensive player last season, and the Dodgers struggled to produce in key situations throughout their season-opening, six-game trip. Ethier, meanwhile, delivered a key two-run single in a pinch-hitting role against Florida on Saturday night that turned a one-run deficit into a one-run lead in a game the Dodgers eventually lost.
Ethier injured his ankle when he stepped awkwardly on the side of the first-base bag scrambling back in on a pickoff attempt during last Wednesday night's game at Pittsburgh.
With eighth-inning setup man George Sherrill continuing to struggle, Torre said he might use Sherrill in a sixth- or seventh-inning role in certain situations, with Ramon Troncoso taking over in the eighth inning until Sherrill finds a groove.
Sherrill spent all of spring training searching for his correct mechanics, an issue he said he deals with every year following the long winter of inactivity.
Although Sherrill now says he found his proper mechanics, Torre said Sherrill's ninth-inning implosion against Florida on Saturday night -- when regular closer Jonathan Broxton was unavailable because he had pitched in each of the two previous games -- was due to Sherrill being too focused on his mechanics.
Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who has been on the 15-day disabled list all season with left-elbow soreness, threw his second full-strength side session Monday, when the Dodgers were off. Torre said Kuo's next step will be a simulated game, although a day hasn't been chosen for that, and that probably will be followed by a minor-league rehabilitation appearances, which presumably would be with high Class A Inland Empire because of its proximity to Los Angeles.
Barring a setback, that probably puts Kuo on target to be activated in time for the start of the Dodgers' next road trip next, Tuesday at Cincinnati.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com