Anderson singles in his Dodgers debut
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Garret Anderson made his long-awaited Dodgers debut in a Cactus League game against Texas, pulling a looping single just inside the right-field line against Rangers left-hander Derek Holland with one out in the second inning. Anderson was subsequently erased when Casey Blake grounded into an inning-ending double play.
The original plan was for Anderson to play left field in his first game, but instead, he was the Dodgers' designated hitter.
Anderson, 37, is in camp on a minor league contract, but he appears to be a strong favorite to beat out fellow veteran Doug Mientkiewicz for the left-handed pinch-hitting spot.
Anderson, an outfielder throughout his 16 major league seasons, has been taking grounders at first base. Mientkiewicz, who missed most of last season while recovering from a dislocated right (throwing) shoulder, is limited to playing first base, and there are questions about his ability to make hard throws, although he appeared to have no trouble doing so in starting and completing a 3-6-3 double play on Friday against Cincinnati.
The fact Anderson's hit came off Holland was significant. Over his career, Anderson has hit lefties almost as well as righties, posting a .291 career average against the former and .297 against the latter. He actually hit 21 points higher (.283) against lefties while with Atlanta last season than against righties (.262).
That means Anderson could be just as valuable a weapon off the bench against left-handers -- although Mientkiewicz has the same, six-point career differential (.273 vs. righties, .267 vs. lefties) that Anderson has.
Mientkiewicz came into the game hitting .364 (4 for 11) for the spring, but struck out in his first at-bat against Holland in the third.
Kuroda has solid start
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda turned in a solid performance in his second start of the spring, going three innings and giving up just two unearned runs after a first-inning error by second baseman Blake DeWitt.
Kuroda allowed just two hits, which came in succession after DeWitt booted David Murphy's two-out grounder. Nelson Cruz followed with an RBI double, and Chris Davis scored Cruz with a sharp single to center. Matt Kemp appeared to nail Cruz with a one-hop throw to the plate, but umpire Doug Eddings ruled that Cruz touched the plate with his hand before catcher Brad Ausmus could apply the tag.
Kuroda retired the next five batters before walking Elvis Andrus with one out in the third, but Andrus was subsequently thrown out trying to steal second as Murphy struck out, ending the inning and Kuroda's day.
Kuroda, last year's Opening Day starter, has a 1.80 ERA for the spring, but he has allowed three unearned runs in five innings.
Right-hander Chris Withrow, the Dodgers' first-round draft pick three years ago and the organization's top pitching prospect, blew away three Rangers hitters in his first career appearance on the big-league side, pitching a hitless eighth inning in which he also hit a batter and threw a wild pitch.
Along the way, he also blew away a major-league coaching staff that had never seen him pitch in person.
"What's not to like with that inning?'' Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "I hadn't seen him at all other than on tape. He told me that other than batting practice, he hadn't even thrown to live hitters this spring, but that was pretty impressive for a guy who hadn't thrown more than a couple of bullpen sessions.''
All three of Withrow's strikeouts -- of Mitch Moreland, Kevin Richardson and Max Ramirez -- were swinging. He fell behind Richardson 3-1 before getting him to chase two high fastballs in a row. Withrow hit Chad Tracy, son of former Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, and Tracy went to second when Withrow bounced a pitch that handcuffed catcher A.J. Ellis.
Withrow, who will turn 21 on April 1, probably will start the season at Double-A Chattanooga. He was promoted there from high Single-A Inland Empire for the final month of last season and responded by going 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA in six starts for the Lookouts, striking out 26 while walking only 12.
"He is special,'' Ellis said. "I got a chance to catch him in L.A. during the winter workouts, and I knew right away that he was special. That's just a different kind of baseball coming out of his hand from what everybody else throws, and he seems like a good kid with a good work ethic.''
Mattingly returns manager's keys
With the Dodgers' Taiwan contingent back in Arizona, hitting coach Don Mattingly will officially turn the duties of managing the club back over to Joe Torre, who wasn't planning on taking Monday off to recuperate from the trip. But Torre basically had let Mattingly run the games even before the Taiwan trip, even though Torre was sitting next to him on the bench, so it isn't clear whether Mattingly will continue to manage in an unofficial capacity.
At any rate, after guiding the club to two wins, two losses and a tie in his five days at the helm, Mattingly, the likely successor to Torre in either 2011 or 2012, said he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
"Really, it's just about seeing the whole game,'' Mattingly said. "You get the experience of seeing everything as the games keep moving, every situation that comes up, whether it's [runners on] first and third, when do you want to play the lines, when do you want to play deep or not play deep. Sometimes everything doesn't come up in one day, but over the course of time, more things come up.''
The Dodgers made their first cuts of the spring on Sunday morning, optioning pitcher Kenley Jansen to minor-league camp and reassigning pitcher Francisco Felix, catcher Gabriel Gutierrez and outfielder Brian Barton to minor-league camp.
That reduces the number of players presently in camp to 60, not including major-league pitcher Ronald Belisario, who has yet to report because of continued visa problems that are preventing him from entering the U.S. from his native Venezuela.Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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