Can Ethier protect Manny?

Joe Torre confirmed today what’s become pretty obvious in the last few days, that Manny Ramirez will bat third in the Dodgers’ lineup and Andre Ethier will follow him.

Things brings up two pretty big questions: Can Ethier protect him? And how badly will Ethier miss hitting in front of him?

Here’s what Joe Torre had to say about Ethier’s ability to protect ManRam:

“A lot of it is going to depend on the guys hitting in front of him. If they get on base there’s no protection involved,” Torre said. “If there’s nobody on base, it doesn’t matter whose hitting behind him. That’s why the top two guys are very important for us.”

Mientkiewicz getting Dodgers attention

Non-roster invitee Doug Mientkiewicz is making a strong push to be on the opening day roster.

Mientkiewicz is hitting .300 with 11 RBI and two homers in his 18 spring training games. He can play both left and right field, first base and to some extent third base. He also proved himself as a left-handed pinch hitter with the Pirates last season.

“Doug’s certainly got our attention,” Joe Torre said after Mientkiewicz drove in the Dodgers’ only run in a 4-1 loss to the Royals Friday afternoon at Camelback Ranch. “He came in with absolutely no promise other than getting some at-bats.

“I told him, `If somebody else sees you and you and you get an opportunity to play someplace else that’s fine.’ But he just won’t let up. As Yogi (Berra) would say, he’s trying to make himself necessary.”

If he makes the team, three things will immediately happen: 1. Everyone covering the team will have to learn to spell his name without looking it up every time 2. Delwyn Young likely won’t and 3. I won’t be able to stop thinking how much he looks like that guy who played Luke on the Gilmore Girls.

I couldn’t find a great picture of Doug to show the resemblance, but trust me, when you see him in person it’s uncanny. Doug on the left, actor Scott Patterson “Luke Danes” on the right.

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Delwyn Young to see specialist

I caught up with Delwyn Young this morning and he seemed to be upbeat despite the circumstances.

He hyperextended his elbow on a swing last week, had an MRI on Tuesday that came back negative, and is scheduled to meet with a specialist on Saturday to see what exactly is wrong.

Young didn’t seem all that worried about it though. Or, the very real possibility that he could be playing his last few days with the Dodgers. Young is out of minor-league options and it’s looking like the club is leaning toward carrying only four outfielders.

“You just take things day to day. You can’t think about it,” he said.

Joe Torre acknowledged the situation after Friday’s game, when asked how the final roster spots were taking shape

“A lot of it depends on Delwyn,” Torre said. “He’s on the shelf right now, and we don’t know if he’s going to be ready to start the season or not. So that would open another spot.”

Manny, a singles hitter?

Manny Ramirez went 3 for 3 today, all off Royals starter Gil Meche who has some filthy stuff working for him in his seven innings of work today. The only other hit Meche allowed was an infield single to pitcher Hiroki Kuroda. All three of Ramirez’ hits were sharp singles up the middle.

Afterwards, he joked with Dodgers’ manager Joe Torre that he’d “lost his power.”

“They threw me good pitches in the middle so I went that way,” Ramirez said. “They said, `Oh if he’s going to keep hitting singles, let’s pitch to him. Let’s be scared of Ethier or something.’ ”

Torre mentioned before and after the game that he’d settled on batting Ramirez third in the Dodgers’ lineup this year, with Rafael Furcal first and Orlando Hudson second. Andre Ethier is looking like the clean-up hitter right now, but that could change depending on the pitching match-ups, Torre said.

Billingsley throws bullpen session, everything A-OK

Chad Billingsley (right groin) finished up a short bullpen session Friday morning and said it went well. He threw about 30 pitches off the mound and said he plans to throw about 90 pitches on Sunday morning in a simulated game against minor league hitters.

“I could’ve thrown yesterday but they just wanted to give me an extra day,” Billingsley said. “It went well. I just eased into it and it felt like a normal bullpen session.”

Billingsley said he’s been doing cardio on the bike this week and was scheduled to do a pool session this afternoon.

Clearing up Billingsley

Chad Billingsley (groin) did not throw his scheduled bullpen session on Thursday, but will throw in a simulated game on Sunday instead of making his scheduled start.

Torre said that was more because pitching coach Rick Honeycutt wanted to monitor the bullpen session, and Honeycutt was in Tucson for the game against the Rockies, than a new setback with his injury. Billingsley is now supposed to throw a bullpen session today.

LHP Eric Stults will start on Sunday, followed by promising youngster Josh Lindblom.

Claudio Vargas, who was roughed up for four runs in one inning on Wednesday, experienced elbow discomfort on Thursday, but Torre said it was due to a change in the way he was gripping his slider, than related to his past elbow injury.

Milton doesn’t fare well

Eric Milton’s audition for the fifth starter’s role didn’t go nearly as well as James McDonald’s. Milton was roughed up for six earned runs in 2 2/3rds innings pitched Thursday against the Rockies. Five of the seven hits he allowed were extra base hits, though it should be noted that two of the hits seemed to be affected by the wind. Either way it wasn’t a great outing.

James McDonald with a scoreless outing

James McDonald pitched three scoreless innings against the Rockies, bouncing back after an erratic start to finish with a nice stat line: 3.0 innings, 2 H, 2 BBs, 1 HBP, 0 runs, 3 Ks

Scott Elbert is in here in the fourth inning with the Dodgers leading 5-0. The big blows came off the bats of Blake DeWitt and Xavier Paul in the top of the third. DeWitt plated two runs with a double to right field, XPaul picked up the other three with a triple to right.

Let’s see if the Rockies can put one in play this inning

James McDonald walked two, hit one and struck out the side in the first inning. In other words, none of the first six batters put the ball in play.

It’s going to be a strange game for sure. The wind here at Hi Corbett Stadium in Tucson is blowing like crazy so every fly ball tends to drift towards the left field line. Curveballs, as you might imagine, don’t always do what they are intended to do.