Ethier positioned as All-Star starter
ANAHEIM -- Although Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier remains third among National League outfielders in All-Star voting, putting him in a position for a starting spot in the July 13 game at Angel Stadium, Ethier appears to be gaining ground in the voting totals even as his batting average appears to be in a free fall.
Ethier went into Tuesday night's game with the Los Angeles Angels hitless in his past 17 at-bats, and he was hitting .197 since returning May 31 from a two-week stint on the disabled list after he broke a small bone in his right little finger taking batting practice. As a result, Ethier's average has dropped from what was a league-leading .392 to .318, leaving him third in the N.L.
By all accounts, Ethier's offensive struggles aren't the result of the finger or of the splint he wears on it.
"I think he is just in a slump," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He is fighting himself a little, which is his history since I have been around here. He is very hungry wanting to get a hit every time up, and I say that as a compliment, knowing how much he wants to produce. I think emotionally, he gets frustrated. He is over all that (finger) stuff. He has had some pretty good at-bats. Both he and Matt (Kemp) are fighting it a little bit because of where they are in the middle of the lineup and the extra pressure you have on you there."
The good news is that Ethier had struck out only twice during that hitless drought, which began with his final plate appearance on Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds. Not only is he making contact, but he has hit several balls extremely hard, a sign that he might not be slumping as badly as his recent numbers would indicate.
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In balloting released on Tuesday by the major league office, Ethier trailed second-place Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves, a rookie, by just 63,520 votes and led fourth-place Jayson Werth of the Philadelphia Phillies by 377,468.
In-stadium balloting for the All-Star Game will end on Wednesday, but fans can vote on mlb.com or on the individual web sites of all 30 teams through 9 p.m. PDT on July 1.
Ethier hasn't made a previous All-Star team in his major league career, either as a starter or as a reserve.
Haeger gets another life
Charlie Haeger, who seems to have more lives than a cat in the Dodgers organization, will get to use another one on Thursday, when he is expected to come off the 15-day disabled list and start against the Angels. Haeger pitched six shutout innings, allowing two hits and four walks, for Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday at Iowa.
"We're going to have to find out about him," Torre said. "Coming off a good outing, we figured this was probably a good time confidence-wise, and physically, we don't think the foot is an issue."
Haeger was originally placed on the DL May 9 with what was termed "plantar fasciitis." After being activated on June 3, he went back on the DL four days later with lingering effects of the sprained big toe on his right foot that he suffered during his first minor league rehab. In between, he made one relief appearance, giving up two runs on three hits over two innings and taking 43 pitches to do it in a 10-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves on June 5.
Billingsley back Monday
Dodgers right-hander Chad Billingsley, who has been on the 15-day disabled list for the past week with a strained right groin, is scheduled to be activated on Monday and start that night against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.
Billingsley threw 45 pitches off a mound on Tuesday -- it was treated like a normal, between-starts bullpen session -- and said he felt completely normal.
"It was a good day," Billingsley said. "I'm just going to do my normal routine now."
Billingsley initially felt something in his groin during the final inning of his most recent start, on June 11 against the Angels, when he gave up seven runs in 5 2/3 innings of a 10-1 defeat. He tried to throw off a mound before batting practice on June 15 at Cincinnati, but wasn't able to do so without considerable pain.
"It hurt on every pitch," Billingsley said.
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The decision was immediately made at that time to put him on the shelf.
Dodgers sign Cash
The Dodgers finally finalized their agreement with Ralston Cash, a right-hander out of Lakeview Academy in Gainesville, Ga., and their second-round pick in this year's amateur draft. The sides agreed in principle, apparently a week or so ago, on a $464,000 signing bonus, but the paperwork wasn't completed until Tuesday. Cash, like most of the Dodgers' high-school picks, will report to the team's Arizona Rookie League affiliate in Glendale.
Cash's signing leaves first-rounder Zachary Lee, a right-hander from McKinney High School in Texas who has committed to play quarterback for Louisiana State University this fall, as the only unsigned player among the team's first five selections. There is some doubt whether the Dodgers can afford to pay, or are willing to pay, the widely reported $5 million to $6 million signing bonus Lee would command in order to spurn his commitment to LSU.
The Dodgers also signed seventh-round pick Ryan Christenson, a lefty from South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. The club has now signed seven of its top 10 picks.
Twitter tickets available
The Dodgers made a handful of single-game tickets available to this weekend's three-game series with the New York Yankees Tuesday, but they could be purchased only through the team's twitter page. Dodgers spokesman Josh Rawitch denied the suggestion that the sudden availability of those tickets -- originally, the team made tickets to the series available only to season-ticket holders, mini-plan subscribers and corporate sponsors -- is the result of disappointing sales.
"I would say it has gone pretty much exactly as we expected," Rawitch said. "What we have right now is essentially a sold-out stadium all three days, but we have to get rid of scattered single tickets somewhere. For instance, if somebody buys three tickets to a game, there is a fourth one sitting around. If a sponsor gets an allotment of 1,000 tickets and only buys 800, there are 200 more available. And with some of our mini-plans, we had to hold those tickets open so that if someone wanted to buy them, they were there to be bought.
"Eventually, we were going to have to release those tickets."
Any remaining tickets can be purchased through the team's web site, dodgers.com. In the space available for special-offer codes or password, enter NYTWEET.
Dodgers prospects Dee Gordon, a shortstop who entered Tuesday batting .279 for the team's Double-A Chattanooga affiliate, and Pedro Baez, a third baseman who is expected to rejoin high Single-A Inland Empire on Thursday at High Desert but presently is playing at Rookie-level Glendale, Ariz., to rehabilitate a left shoulder injury, have been selected to play in baseball's All-Star Futures game on July 11 at Angel Stadium. Baez will be participating in the event for the second year in a row.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com