Daily Distractions: Back injury puts Jerry Hairston Jr.’s playoff availability in jeopardy.

Jerry Hairston Jr.

Dodgers veteran Jerry Hairston Jr. is batting .211 this season in a reserve role. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told the “Petros and Money Show” on 570-AM (KCAL) yesterday that Jerry Hairston Jr. is fighting a back issue that might keep him off the Dodgers’ playoff roster.

“It’s something we’re debating,” Colletti said.

Hairston, one of seven Dodgers with World Series experience, is batting just .143 in the second half of the season in a reserve role.

Colletti responded to a question specifically about whether he would choose the experienced Hairston over younger shortstop Dee Gordon.

“We’re also debating Dee,” Colletti continued. “He brings speed to the game. If you watched our games against Cincinnati a couple weeks ago, you saw the effect of a Billy Hamilton. If you paid attention when we weren’t playing him you saw the game-changing aspect of it. He’s somebody we’re thinking about.”

Colletti added that he’s hopeful that Andre Ethier will be healthy enough that “we’ll be able to use him to some extent starting Thursday.” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Ethier is likely to be used in a pinch-hitting role at the outset.

Some bullet points for a World Vegetarian Day:
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A content James Loney returns to Dodger Stadium.

James Loney

James Loney was drafted 19th overall by the Dodgers in 2002, and played in Los Angeles from 2006-12. (Getty Images)


Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell and Tampa Bay Rays first baseman James Loney were sitting in opposite clubhouses Friday. They were never traded for each other, but they have effectively swapped spots: Loney appeared in parts of seven seasons for the Dodgers from 2006-12, while Howell pitched for the Rays from 2006-12.

Both said the same thing about playing in Tampa.

“You always want to be yourself. (Manager Joe Maddon) is real big on that,” Loney said.

Howell elaborated: “Sometimes where people [on other teams] give up on (players), they go to Tampa and they get another chance, and they’re allowed freedom to be themselves, create who they want to be when they first started their career. … That’s what happened in my case.”

That seems to be the case with Loney, too.

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Stan Kasten wants you to know the Dodgers aren’t trying to buy a championship.

Here’s one quote that did not make any of the 10 blog posts or two stories I filed from Dodger Stadium yesterday. It’s from Stan Kasten.

“I want to stress … we continue to believe in the importance of building a foundation through scouting and player development,” Kasten said. “We won’t be what we want to be until we build the system of players.”

“The great advantage of this ownership is, we can do both at the same time.”

Sounds a little utopian, right? Let’s take a look at the hit the Dodgers’ farm system just absorbed.

In acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Carl Crawford, Joe Blanton, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, Randy Choate and Brandon League,here’s what the Dodgers sacrificed from their system:
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James Loney’s interesting time as a Dodger is up.

During his daily pregame press briefing, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked for his best James Loney story.

“Oh God,” he sighed. Sounded like there were a few to choose from.

Mattingly picked one from a couple years back, when Larry Bowa was the Dodgers’ third-base coach, and James did “something on the field” that prompted Bowa to pull Loney aside in a tunnel leading into the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

“I know I’ve told you a hundred times…” Bowa said, in Mattingly’s words.

Loney’s response: “Well, I guess one-hundred and one.”

It was an appropriate anecdote for a player whose sense of humor was at times his best asset this season. Like on Friday, when Loney was asked why he was scratched from the lineup, as trade rumors swirled and Adrian Gonzalez was being scratched from the lineup in Boston.

“I don’t have good numbers against (Nate) Eovaldi,” Loney said. “I’m 0-for-0.”

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Colletti: Dodgers targeted Gonzalez since April.

When Adrian Gonzalez hit the second pitch he saw in a Dodger uniform for a three-run home run Saturday, it culminated general manager Ned Colletti’s season-long pursuit of the Boston Red Sox first baseman.

“I talked to [Red Sox general manager] Ben Cherington back in April about Adrian,” Colletti said. “As the talks went on, they were sporadic. We talked about other players. At the [July 31 non-waiver trade] deadline, they weren’t prepared to do anything. The more scouts talk, you get a feel for where the match may be – you get a feel for what players in your system they would like. … You don’t get the crystal clear picture of it, but you get an idea where their interest lies. We just kept turning, kept turning. I stayed in touch with Ben through the month of August. He all of a sudden knew that we were in the market to pick up star players. We were also looking to add as much pitching as we could add.”

Colletti said that Gonzalez was a topic of daily discussion, internally and externally, every day for the last week.

The home run was nice, but the Dodgers will need to get a lot more out of Gonzalez if today’s trade is to pay off. He’s under contract through 2018 for a total of $128 million after this season. Gonzalez turns 36 during the final year of his contract.

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Brewers 9, Dodgers 4; Dodgers 6, Cubs 3.

Tempers flared in a loss to the Brewers in Glendale, and the Dodgers rapped out 11 hits to beat the Cubs in Mesa, in the team’s final day of split-squad action in spring training.

Both benches were warned in the sixth inning of a 9-4 loss to Milwaukee after Dodgers starter Chris Capuano threw a pitch behind Ryan Braun. That followed a series of hit batters –one (Norichika Aoki) by Capuano and two (Jerry Hairston Jr. and Juan Rivera) by Milwaukee pitchers earlier in the game.

That was the end of the drama, however, and the Brewers scored eight runs over the final three innings to erase a 4-2 deficit.

Capuano allowed two hits, one (earned) run on a solo shot by Braun, walked one and struck out seven in six innings. His Cactus League ERA stands at 2.75. Matt Guerrier relieved him in the seventh inning and gave up a 3-run home run to the first batter he faced, Brooks Conrad, in his first game since March 11.

Guerrier was actually pitching his third game in five days, including minor-league games, and afterward declared himself free of any back pain and healthy to start the season.

“As far as I am concerned, (the injury) was over a week ago,” he said.

The Brewers’ Carlos Gomez hit a three-run home run off losing pitcher Jamey Wright in the seventh inning. Todd Coffey gave up three hits and four runs — none earned, thanks to a Jake Lemmerman error –in two-thirds of an inning. His spring ERA ballooned to 7.71.

Andre Ethier doubled and homered in four at-bats, giving him 15 extra-base hits among his 18 this spring.
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Giants 4, Dodgers 1.

The Dodgers couldn’t take advantage of another strong Nate Eovaldi start in a 4-1 loss to the Giants before an announced crowd of 10,084 at Scottsdale Stadium. [box score]

Mark Ellis and James Loney — the only two expected opening-day starters in the lineup — each had two hits. Jerry Hairston Jr. and Josh Bard had the only other hits for the Dodgers off Giants starter Yusmeiro Petit and four relievers.

Eovaldi allowed three hits and two runs, both earned, the most runs he’s allowed in five spring starts. The right-hander struck out none, walked two, and saw his Cactus League earned-run average rise to 1.72.

“He continues to get more off-speed pitches,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He was using the curveball today more, using the changeup some.”

Reliever Todd Coffey allowed the Giants’ other two runs, on a two-run home run by Nate Schierholtz in the eighth inning.

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Dodgers 5, Rangers 2.

James Loney, back in the lineup after being sidelined by a strained calf muscle, went 2-for-3 with his first home run of the spring in a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers before an announced crowd of 11,082 at Camelback Ranch. [box score]

“James was out a couple days, came right back and looked exactly the same,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Seems like he’s confident. Should be an interesting year for him.”

Loney is hitting .357/..471/1.113 with four RBIs in four at-bats.

Juan Rivera and Juan Uribe also had two hits apiece as the Dodgers (8-3-2) started their expected opening-day lineup against the Rangers’ Greg Reynolds. The right-hander lasted three innings, giving up seven hits, four runs (four earned), walking one and striking out two.

Starter Ted Lilly allowed one hit — a triple — and no runs in four innings of work
against the Rangers. The left-hander struck out two, walked none and threw 27
of his 44 pitches for strikes.

Lilly said the results “were probably better than I threw the ball,” but the manager liked what he saw.

“His stuff is crisper right now than it was last year for sure,” Mattingly said.

Javy Guerra, Scott Elbert, Wilfredo Ledezma and Scott Rice threw scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Kenley Jansen allowed both Texas runs, on solo home runs by Brandon Snyder and Alberto Gonzalez.

A few more notes:

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Emptying out the notebook, windy edition.

Winds were heavy Friday in Glendale – up to 40 mph, according to a website that I can give credence to after forgetting to bring a jacket this morning.

On a practical level, that meant no pre-scheduled pop-up drills. “That’s a waste of time,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You don’t mind guys being tested, but this is -you’re not going to get anything done there. We got into some forced balks, stuff like that. …AT&T (Park in San Francisco) is pretty windy, but it’s different circumstance. We weren’t going to get anything done with that drill today.”

Some more nuts-and-bolts items:

On Sunday, the Dodgers will play a four-inning intrasquad scrimmage. Clayton Kershaw, Chris Capuano, Stephen Fife and Will Savage are scheduled to throw.

Team pictures were taken today prior to workouts.

The first official game is Monday against the Chicago White Sox, who share the Camelback facility and will make the Dodgers the visiting team on a field adjacent to their own clubhouse. (Go figure.) One thing to look out for is the number of at-bats given to James Loney, Juan Rivera and Mark Ellis. Each has been notorious for starting slowly in the first half, then picking it up in the second. Why? Mattingly offered his theory.

“Most guys that are slow starters that kind of get rolling after that are usually timing guys,” Mattingly said. “It takes ‘em a little bit longer to get in. Once they click it in, they’re pretty solid.”

One possible solution: More at-bats.

“When James has gotten a lot of at-bats, he’s gotten off to a better start. We’re going to try to get him more (at-bats) than probably most. Ellis has been a slow starter, had some good springs, some bad springs. He’s had a year or so where he’s had decent starts but it doesn’t seem like the (number of) at-bats really makes a difference. Juan’s the same way.
… (Jerry) Hairston, we want to try to get him a lot of at-bats down here, especially late. We want to get him more late.”

Postgame: Dodgers 9, Braves 1

The Dodgers beat the Braves 9-1 today at Turner Field to win the three-game set in Atlanta. For a full recap and boxscore click here.

THE BARE ESSENTIALS:

19 hits for the Dodgers tonight, as Matt Kemp (3-for-5, HR, 5 RBI) and James Loney (3-for-6, 2 RBI) shined on national television.

Chad Billingsley threw five solid innings but exited early with an apparent right hamstring cramp. He attempted to convince Joe Torre that he could stay in, so things don’t look too serious.

Jair Jurrjens has been one of the best hurlers in baseball thus far, but the Dodgers got hold of him pretty well in the fifth. He ended up with a line of 10 hits, two walks, and four runs in five innings.

ETC…ETC:

When Jason Schmidt comes up to pinch hit and knocks a single, you know you’re going good. Schmidt pinch hit for Billingsley in the sixth and eventually came around to score.

Braves outfielder Matt Diaz on Ramon Troncoso: “I don’t know what the role that last guy has on their team. But I know he has a 2.00 ERA and nasty stuff. He’s not their setup guy and he’s not their closer. So when you’ve got that guy just getting innings, that’s a pretty deep bullpen.”

Casey Blake hurt his hand lifting weights over the weekend and was unavailable today, leading to a Mark Loretta start. X-rays on Blake were reportedly negative. Loretta had his first two-hit game since June 25.

Scott Elbert pitched well in relief of Billingsley, going 2 2/3 innings and being charged with just one run. George Sherrill replaced Guillermo Mota in a double switch and got Chipper Jones to fly out to end an Atlanta mini-rally.

ON DECK:

Clayton Kershaw (8-5, 2.76) and Manny Parra (5-8, 6.50) meet tomorrow at Dodger Stadium.