There were many runs and hits in the Dodgers' spring opener against the White Sox on Saturday, but hardly any came from Los Angeles. Chicago pounded out 14 hits in a 9-0 victory over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.
The Dodgers were shut down early by Dylan Axelrod, who struck out four in three scoreless innings. He only allowed one baserunner, a single by designated hitter Juan Uribe in the third inning after Axelrod retired the first eight batters of the game.
Manager Don Mattingly said Uribe has been working with Manny Mota on hitting the ball to right center field, the location of both of his plate appearances on Saturday. Uribe flew out to right center field in the fifth inning as well.
Clayton Kershaw struck out three and walked none in his two innings of work, but he also allowed four hits and two runs, with a pair of RBI doubles. But as is usually the case in spring training, especially this early in spring, the results are not as important as the routine and the process. Both Kershaw and Mattingly had good things to say about the outing by the Dodgers' ace.
"He was good," Mattingly said. "He threw the ball where he wanted."
Kershaw nearly picked off Alejandro De Aza at second base in the first inning, but shortstop Hanley Ramirez lost sight of the ball at the last second and didn't catch the throw. Kershaw was charged with a throwing error on the play.
Ramirez redeemed himself in the second inning with a dazzling spin and throw from behind second base to retire Dayan Viciedo to open the frame. But Mattingly seemed more impressed by Ramirez in the first inning.
"(The second inning play) was good, but I actually liked the fact that he put on the pick. That's something we were really working on," Mattingly said. "He has that timing early, and had the confidence to put that play on. Kershaw was on the money, but he just lost it at the last second."
Yasiel Puig made his Dodgers debut as a pinch runner for Andre Ethier in the fourth inning, and the 22-year-old Cuban played right field for the rest of the game. Puig grounded out in the seventh inning in what looked like a double play ball to shortstop, but Puig beat the throw to first base.
In the ninth inning Puig lined a double to left field, then put an an adventure show on the bases. He was nearly caught rounding second base too far and slipped, but was able to get back. Then he advanced to third base on a grounder to the right side, but rounded third base too aggressively as well and slipped again. Puig would have been thrown out for the last out of the game, but newly acquired White Sox third baseman Conor Gillaspie dropped the throw.
Both sides of Puig were on display on Saturday, and Mattingly liked what he saw.
"You see him getting down the line and you see what we talk about with him being raw," Mattingly said. "That's what we get when you get a guy getting a chance to play and he's playing full speed. We like it. We'd much rather be able to pull a guy back than kick him in the butt and say, 'Let's go'."
- Ethier was on third base when Puig pinch ran for him in the fourth inning because of a triple off Leyson Septimo, who happens to throw left-handed. I wasn't present for the interview in the clubhouse but Ethier, a .238/.296/.352 lifetime hitter against left-handed pitchers who hit .222/.276/.330 against southpaws in 2012, said, "(If I) get five extra hits in the year, you guys aren’t going to talk to me about it. It’s that simple," per J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News.
Ethier has 1,010 at-bats against left-handed pitchers in his seven-year career, an average of 144 at-bats per season. Five extra hits per year would add .035 to his batting average against southpaws. Yes, it would be better if Ethier would hit .273 against lefties instead of .238. It really is that simple.
- Earlier in the week, Mattingly said though he wanted to get his World Baseball Classic participants three at-bats instead of two, he didn't want them to have to play seven innings to get those three at-bats. But on Saturday, because the Dodgers managed just two hits and no runs in the first six innings (they only had three hits and four walks all game), both Adrian Gonzalez and Luis Cruz played seven innings.
"Hopefully we'll get a few hits so we don't have to go seven innings to get three at-bats for those guys," Mattingly said, smiling.
- The lineup on Sunday, also against the White Sox, will have the same first five hitters as Saturday, but Mark Ellis will leadoff against right-handed pitcher Erik Johnson, with Hanley Ramirez second. Mattingly said Jeremy Moore would start in left field, Alex Castellanos in center field, and Tim Federowicz behind the plate on Sunday.
- Mattingly said Uribe would start at first base in his next game, likely Monday.
- Zack Greinke gets the start for the Dodgers on Sunday, and will be followed by Hyun-jin Ryu, as both newcomers make their Dodgers debut.