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Sandy Koufax hit in head by liner but can smile about it

Foul ball hit by Andre Ethier strikes Sandy Koufax, 78, in head, but the Dodgers great suffers only a small cut and laughs it off later.

February 21, 2014|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Hall of Fame Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax signs autographs for fans at Camelback Ranch at spring training last year.
Hall of Fame Dodgers pitcher Sandy Koufax signs autographs for fans at Camelback… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

PHOENIX — Sandy Koufax was struck in the head by a line drive Friday morning, but walked out of the Dodgers' spring-training complex a few hours later with a smile on his face.

"I'm fine," Koufax said.

The Hall of Famer was watching rookie right-hander Ross Stripling warm up in the bullpen at one of the practice fields when he was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Andre Ethier.

"I never saw it," Koufax said. "It's one that has your name on it in the morning."

Koufax, 78, is in the camp as a special instructor.

"Your heart kind of leaps out of your body right there for a second," Ethier said.

Manager Don Mattingly had a similar feeling as he watched from behind the batting cage and the left-handed-hitting Ethier hit the ball down the left-field line.

"It wasn't like a blooper or nothing," Mattingly said. "It was a semi-liner. I'm glad it was from a lefty, not a righty. With a righty, it would have been hooking in."

Koufax remained on his feet and smiled as he walked slowly toward assistant trainer Nancy Patterson, who drove him on a cart to the minor league side of the complex.

Left with a small cut on the left side of his head, Koufax joked that he might return Saturday wearing one of the new protective caps that pitchers will be allowed to wear this season.

"It may be the first test of them tomorrow," he said.

First step back

Yasiel Puig was held out of on-field drills for the second consecutive day because of a bruised right thigh.

Puig tossed a medicine ball, hit in a batting cage and worked out in the weight room. He is expected to resume full workouts Saturday.

Spring rotation

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke will pitch the Dodgers' first two exhibition games, both against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kershaw will pitch the Cactus League opener Wednesday, which will be played at the Diamondbacks' spring-training home in Scottsdale. Greinke will start the next day at the Dodgers' complex.

On the mend

Outfielder Matt Kemp will undergo an MRI exam next week to determine if he can start running outdoors, but Mattingly said he still doesn't think the former All-Star will be able to play in the season-opening series in Australia.

"We're not hopeful for Australia," Mattingly said.

Kemp hasn't run outdoors since he underwent ankle surgery over the winter. The Dodgers start their season March 22.

Still in the mix

Paco Rodriguez can be sent to the minor leagues without clearing waivers. That, combined with the surplus of established arms in the Dodgers bullpen, could make it difficult for the 22-year-old left-hander to claim a spot on the major league roster.

However, Mattingly has talked about Rodriguez as if he plans for him to be on the team.

"Paco was one of the best lefties in baseball," Mattingly said. "Without Paco last year, we're in trouble."

Rodriguez had a 1.88 earned-run average in the first five months of the season, only to fade in September. He had a 5.68 ERA in the final month.

But Mattingly took responsibility for Rodriguez's late-season slump, pointing to how he made 76 appearances.

"It seemed to me like he just ran out of gas," Mattingly said. "To me, he's right back on track. There's no reason not to be confident in what he can do."

Short hops

Paul Maholm, who has been dealing with a tender elbow, is expected to throw a bullpen session Saturday. . . . The Dodgers will play intrasquad games Sunday and Monday. Hyun-Jin Ryu, Kenley Jansen, Brian Wilson, J.P. Howell, Chris Perez and Matt Magill are scheduled to pitch Sunday. Dan Haren, Rodriguez, Jamey Wright, Stephen Fife and Chris Reed are slated to pitch Monday.

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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