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DODGERS FYI

For Andre Ethier, hitting behind Manny Ramirez can be a walk in the park

{The outfielder's batting average is up, but so is the number of free passes. He is on pace for 119 walks.} {}

April 28, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

SAN FRANCISCO — The latest stage in the development of Andre Ethier can be measured in more than the number of home runs he has hit or the runs he has driven in.

Ethier, who went into the Dodgers' series opener in San Francisco on Monday leading the team with five home runs and 20 runs batted in, is drawing walks.

He's also hitting left-handed pitching.

The reason?

"I guess I'm more cognizant of what's going on," said Ethier, who bats left-handed.

Ethier walked 14 times in the Dodgers' first 19 games, putting him on pace for 119. He drew 59 free passes last season.

He was also batting .316 against left-handers, up from .243 last year.

Told by Manager Joe Torre in spring training that he was the starting right fielder, Ethier said he feels more relaxed.

"You don't have to press or have anxiety up there," he said.

Ethier said he has found that hitting in the cleanup spot behind Manny Ramirez -- Matt Kemp hit fourth Monday because the Dodgers were facing a left-hander, Barry Zito -- doesn't necessarily mean he'll see better pitches to hit.

"Sometimes you get up and there are runners on and pitchers want to pitch you real tough," Ethier said.

Or avoid him altogether.

Ethier didn't draw a single intentional walk last season but already had four through the weekend.

But Ethier's walk total doesn't appear to be solely a product of hitting behind Ramirez. The Dodgers went into Monday's game leading the majors in walks with 95. No other team had more than 84.

"We have a style of play now, and all of us young guys are more adjusted and comfortable with it," Ethier said, referring to the patience Torre and hitting coach Don Mattingly have preached for the last 14 months.

Ethier said being more aware of specific game situations is also the reason he's hitting left-handed pitching better.

"Lefty specialists out of the bullpen, you know their jobs are to get left-handed hitters out," he said. "They're not going to try to walk you."

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Mannywood for sale

Mannywood became an actual place Monday, as the Dodgers announced that Sections 51 and 53 of Dodger Stadium would be named in honor of their $25-million left fielder.

The sections are on the field level, on the fair side of the left-field foul pole. Special ticket packages, which can be purchased at dodgers.com/mannywood for $99, include two tickets for seats in Mannywood, as well as specially designed T-shirts. Mannywood will officially open Thursday when the Dodgers begin a four-game series against San Diego.

On Cinco de Mayo, fans who purchase Mannywood ticket packages will receive special T-shirts that read, "Yo Estuve en Mannywood" ("I was in Mannywood").

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Kuroda: weeks away

Hiroki Kuroda received a cortisone injection in his strained side muscle and probably won't rejoin the Dodgers' rotation for a few more weeks.

Kuroda, who hasn't pitched since opening day, won't resume throwing until the weekend and doesn't have a set timetable for a return, Torre said. Before being activated, Kuroda probably will have to pitch once or twice in the minors or in simulated games.

Trainer Stan Conte said the injection that Kuroda received was intended to rid him of whatever lingering discomfort he's feeling.

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Short hops

Barry Bonds, who attended his first Giants game this season, received a standing ovation when introduced to the crowd. . . . James Loney, who was one for 20 against Zito, was replaced by Mark Loretta.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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DODGERS TONIGHT

AT SAN FRANCISCO

When: 7:15.

Where: AT&T Park.

On the air: TV: Ch. 9; Radio: 790; 930.

Pitchers: Chad Billingsley vs. Jonathan Sanchez.

Update: Billingsley was outstanding in his previous start, holding Houston to three hits over 7 1/3 scoreless innings. The Dodgers' 24-year-old ace was outstanding the last time he faced the Giants, as he struck out 11 batters in a win at Dodger Stadium on April 13. Billingsley limited the Giants to a run and five hits over seven innings in that game. Sanchez will be making his first start in 12 days because the Giants used their day off Thursday to skip his turn in the rotation. The promising left-hander made two starts against the Dodgers last season and was 0-1 with a 7.00 earned-run average.

-- Dylan Hernandez

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