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DODGERS REPORT

Ethier to open in left field; Pierre left out

March 31, 2008|Ben Bolch | Times Staff Writer

Juan Pierre made the final out of spring training for the Dodgers on Sunday with a nice catch along the wall down the left-field line at Dodger Stadium.

Today, Pierre will open the second season of a five-year, $44-million contract on the bench.

Manager Joe Torre announced Sunday that Andre Ethier would be the Dodgers' starting left fielder today in the season opener against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium, relegating Pierre to the role of high-priced reserve.

Ethier concluded his spring-long surge Sunday with two hits and two runs batted in during the Dodgers' 8-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Dodger Stadium, raising his batting average to .377. He finished with a team-high six homers and tied right fielder Matt Kemp for the team lead with 18 runs batted in.

"He's had a real good spring," Torre said before the game. "He's hit a number of home runs, he's hit lefties, he's hit righties. I want to see more."

Torre and General Manager Ned Colletti stressed that opening-day lineups have a way of changing over the season because of performance and injuries. For now, Pierre will be used mostly as a pinch-runner and pinch-hitter.

Pierre had two hits and an RBI Sunday to finish a mostly dismal spring with a .188 average. He hit .293 last season but was derided for a weak throwing arm and a .331 on-base percentage, low for a leadoff hitter.

Pierre, who on Saturday complained about the possibility of starting the season on the bench based on a poor spring-training performance, declined to comment Sunday.

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Nonroster invitee Chan Ho Park, who appeared a strong candidate to open the season in the bullpen, was optioned to triple-A Las Vegas, mostly because the Dodgers needed to carry an extra infielder as second baseman Jeff Kent continues his recovery from a strained right hamstring and the team grapples with injuries to three third basemen. Torre said Park would join the 51s' rotation and could rejoin the Dodgers if they opt to go with 12 pitchers in coming weeks.

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Kent said he would be ready to start the season today even though he was not quite 100%. "Running is the biggest issue," said Kent, who played three innings in the field Sunday and was one for two with a run-scoring single. . . . Hiroki Kuroda and relievers Clayton Kershaw and Brian Falkenborg combined on a one-hitter, with Kuroda striking out six during four hitless innings. Boston's Bobby Kielty broke up the no-hit bid with a single to right-center field against Kershaw with one out in the eighth.

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The Dodgers' opening-day batting order, barring a last-minute acquisition: shortstop Rafael Furcal, Ethier, Kemp, Kent, center fielder Andruw Jones, catcher Russell Martin, first baseman James Loney, third baseman Blake DeWitt and pitcher Brad Penny. . . . It appeared unlikely that the Dodgers would be able to trade for a third baseman before today's opener. Colletti called the asking price "a little bit strong because of the predicament we're in" with so many injured infielders. The Dodgers had not placed DeWitt on their 40-man roster as of Sunday evening because they were waiting to see if another player would become available. . . . Kershaw, who compiled a 0.64 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 14 innings over six spring appearances, was optioned to double-A Jacksonville. Pitchers Falkenborg, Greg Jones, Mike Koplove, catchers Rene Rivera and Danny Ardoin, outfielder Jason Repko and infielder Ramon Martinez were also optioned to the minor leagues. . . . As expected, pitcher Jason Schmidt and third basemen Nomar Garciaparra and Andy LaRoche were placed on the disabled list. Third baseman Tony Abreu said he was also bound for the disabled list. . . . Jones did not play Sunday because of a leg cramp but said he should be fine to start today. . . . Spokesman Josh Rawitch said the credit card system that malfunctioned during Friday's game at Dodger Stadium, causing severe backups in concession areas, was working properly Sunday.

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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