No joke for Dodgers: It’s Andre Ethier at first – LA Times

LA-Times-logo2.jpg

By Dylan Hernandez
Los Angeles Times

August 6, 2010

Andre Ethier says he thought Manager Joe Torre was joking when he approached him on the field between the eighth and ninth innings on Thursday night.

“But then I saw he wasn’t smiling,” Ethier said.

Less than a month after his first major league start in center field at the All-Star game, Ethier was being asked to play first base as part of a double switch.

The Dodgers were down, 5-0, against the San Diego Padres and first baseman James Loney had made the final out of the eighth inning.

“When you’re behind in the game, you have to take your chances,” Torre said.

By using Ethier at first base, Torre was able to save Ronnie Belliard to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Ethier didn’t have any balls hit or thrown to him in that ninth inning.

The position wasn’t completely unfamiliar to Ethier, who played there at Arizona State in 2002.

Special guest in town

Watching Hiroki Kuroda pitch from the Dodger Stadium press box Saturday night will be Masatoshi Kimura, a reporter from the Chugoku Shinbun in Japan.

A columnist for the paper of record in the Hiroshima prefecture where Kuroda played, Kimura wrote a column in June 2004 that the pitcher said changed his career.

“No longer the ace,” Kuroda said, recalling the title of the column.

The column was written after a three-game stretch in which Kuroda gave up 20 runs.

“It wasn’t something I wrote out of the blue,” Kimura said.

“Between those starts, his body language was bad. He was basically saying, ‘Well, this is what I am.’ I told him what I thought after the first two of those starts. After that third start, I felt I had to write it.”

Kuroda responded by pitching a shutout in his next game.

He later told Kimura that he had taped his column to the back of his locker.

“I was impressed that he never complained about the story,” Kimura said. “A lot of players would hold something like that against you.”

Said Kuroda: “The way I pitched, I felt I couldn’t complain.”

The Carp no longer play at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium, but the column remains posted to the locker, which is on display at the team’s new ballpark.

Short hops

A case of claustrophobia caused Manny Ramirez to postpone an MRI he was supposed to undergo on Friday. Ramirez continues to receive treatment for his strained calf in Arizona, according to the Dodgers.... Ronald Belisario is scheduled to begin a minor league rehabilitation assignment with Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday. Belisario might also pitch on Sunday and be ready to reinstated from the restricted list when the Dodgers begin a three-game series in Philadelphia on Tuesday.... Rafael Furcal’s back improved enough that to where the shortstop was able to play catch.... The Dodgers have extended their partnership with their double-A affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn., through 2014.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Steve Dilbeck contributed to this report.