Ethier could sit through weekend

MIAMI -- Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier remained out of the starting lineup on Friday night because of his left ankle, which he injured when he took an awkward step on the first-base bag during Wednesday night's loss to Pittsburgh.

Under the watchful eyes of trainer Stan Conte and physical therapist Sue Falsone, Ethier spent several minutes on the field before batting practice doing light running that included cutting, and he didn't appear to experience any ill effects. Ultimately, though, he didn't feel he was ready to return to the lineup, although it was possible he would be able to pinch hit during the game.

"Andre isn't comfortable yet," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "As soon as we feel it's safe, we will put him in there. The last thing I want to do, especially if he might be available off the bench as a pinch hitter, is put him in there (to start) and then lose him as a potential pinch hitter later on."

Torre said Ethier probably won't start through the weekend against the Marlins though he could be available to pinch hit. Reed Johnson, who was 3 for 4 with a double in his first start with the Dodgers on Thursday at Pittsburgh, started in right field in place of Ethier.

"The thing you have to pay attention to with Ethier is how much running he has to do," Torre said. "Just going out there and running out to right field and back eight or nine times a game, just that part probably takes a toll. He tested it a little bit, but he still wasn't ready to start."

Ethier's lack of availability was particularly glaring in light of the fact he is a career .349 hitter at Sun Life Stadium, with a .408 on-base percentage.

Reliever Hong-Chih Kuo, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a sore left elbow, is tentatively scheduled to throw a full-on bullpen session Sunday. Torre said that if Kuo suffers no setbacks, it is conceivable he could be activated toward the end of next week's six-game homestand with Arizona and San Francisco.

With Kuo out, eighth-inning setup man George Sherrill is the only left-hander the Dodgers presently have in their bullpen.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda was scheduled to make his first start of the season against the Marlins on Friday night after a spring training in which he posted a 1.96 ERA and limited opposing batters to a .200 (13 for 65) average.

"He looked comfortable all spring," Torre said. "The ball was coming out of his hand really nicely, which was an indication he felt loose and relaxed."

Former Dodgers outfielder Pedro Guerrero, who lives nearby, stopped by the clubhouse for a pregame visit with several of his former teammates who are still with the club, including broadcaster Rick Monday and first-base coach Mariano Duncan.

The Dodgers' four full-season minor-league affiliates all opened their seasons on Thursday night, and all four won. There were two notable performances.

First, right-hander James McDonald, who came to spring training as a strong candidate for either the fifth starter's job or a spot in the bullpen before being sent out, pitched five strong innings for Triple-A Albuquerque, allowing one run and getting no decision in a 6-3, 13-inning win at Oklahoma City.

Second, outfielder Blake Smith, last year's second-round draft pick out of Thomas Downey High School in Modesto, went 5 for 6 with two doubles, a two-run homer and five RBI for low Single-A Great Lakes, which had a total of 16 hits in a 16-5 win at South Bend.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com