03/13/2007 11:27 AM ET
Gonzo takes Ethier under his wing
Veteran was always a role model for Dodger youngster
Andre Ethier hit .308 with 11 home runs and 55 RBIs in his rookie season with the Dodgers last year. (AP)
Phoenix native and Arizona State alum Andre Ethier was thrilled when the Dodgers signed longtime Diamondbacks star Luis Gonzalez in the off-season. Ethier has been a big fan of Gonzalez and is developing a close relationship with him now that the two are on the same team.
"The guy I modeled my game after was now my teammate," Ethier told the Los Angeles Times. "Next thing I know I'm working out with Gonzo in the off-season and we're taking batting practice. It was surreal."
Gonzalez knew who Ethier was, having seen him play in college. Ethier's Major League debut last season also made Gonzalez take notice.
"He caught my eye," Gonzalez said. "I was very impressed with him. He's going to be a great player for a long time."
Gonzalez has already taken Ethier under his wing, giving him knowledge gained during his 16-year Major League career.
"Don't undersell yourself, shoot big," Ethier said. "He's always telling me that. But at the same time, he says not to overdo certain things. I'd go out during the off-season and take 100 swings. He told me to take 30 quality swings instead.
"And if I'm not swinging well, don't take it home and beat myself up over it."
Gonzalez recognizes Ethier's talent and considers it part of his job to bring that out to its fullest extent.
"My thing is to teach him to stay on an even keel," Gonzalez said. "Andre already knows that, but I'm here to remind him on a daily basis. Young players want to put up good numbers and they put pressure on themselves.
"We can all see he can play. Now it's the stuff between his ears that counts."
Mitre solid in return to mound: Marlins pitcher Sergio Mitre missed most of last season with shoulder problems. He made his return to the mound on Sunday versus the Mets and pitched two scoreless innings against a lineup that featured most of the defending NL East champion's regular lineup.
"Seeing him against their No. 1 lineup, what he did with them, the command of his pitches, was impressive," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Mitre threw 28 pitches and allowed just one hit and one walk and fanned two batters.
"It feels good to just throw the ball and not feel any pinching or throbbing or anything like that," said Mitre, who missed all but 15 games last season with shoulder inflammation. "Last year it was aching all the time."
Hairston steps up in battle for spot with Rangers: Battling for a spot on the Texas Rangers as a utility player, Jerry Hairston Jr. took advantage of his chance to play the entire game Saturday as he had a triple, two walks and four putouts in the field.
"I'm just doing my thing and trying to prepare," Hairston told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I know I'm going to be in the Major Leagues whether it's here or somewhere else. We've got some very capable guys, but I've worked hard -- especially in the outfield. I'm an infielder by trade, but I'm comfortable in the outfield."
While Hairston is competing for a job, he also has to gauge how well he is doing. He said he has an out clause on March 15, so if he is unsure that he has the job won, he could leave and try to catch on with another team.
If Hairston is expecting help from manager Ron Washington about his chances of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster, he won't get it. Washington has said he will not announce who will be the team's utility player until the end of spring.
"I was one of those guys," Washington said. "And if I'm going to be defeated, I want to be defeated knowing that I've been defeated rather than being pulled out when I still think I have a shot. I would like to take it all the way to the end [of Spring Training]."
Estrada gets plenty of early work: Spring Training is usually a chance for established players to slowly get ready for the regular season. That, however, is not the case for Milwaukee catcher Johnny Estrada, who was starting for the ninth time in 10 days Saturday.
Manager Ned Yost has a reason for the unusually high level of activity for Estrada. He wants the Brewers' newest catcher to get used to the starting pitchers he will work with this year.
"It's always hard coming to a new team and having to learn the pitchers," Estrada told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "My toughest job is trying to learn these pitchers in a short amount of time. I'm probably going to be able to catch each one only two or three times, so the more I can catch them the better off we're going to be.
"It takes a toll on the legs this early. They (my legs) are still kind of getting into baseball shape. To this point I've felt pretty good. I'm not that tired, I feel strong. It's probably the most I've caught this early in Spring Training in my career, but it's necessary. We want to be ready to go come April."
Hit takes the pressure off Iwamura: It took a while, but Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura finally collected his first hit as a Devil Rays player when he stroked a two-out RBI single against Philadelphia Saturday. Iwamura is glad to finally have a hit to his credit after starting 0-for-9 at the plate.
"The Japanese media has been asking a lot of questions because I had not gotten a hit," Iwamura told the St. Petersburg Times through interpreter Masa Koyanagi. "I think this will make them quiet a little bit."
In fact, Iwamura said the relief he felt getting the hit was "like I passed a kidney stone."
After swinging at and missing two changeups from pitcher Freddy Garcia, Iwamura hit a third straight changeup into right field for his first hit.
"They threw one too many changeups to him," said bench coach Bill Evers, who managed the Devil Rays.
Iwamura didn't initially ask for the ball, but it was fouled into the stands, allowing Iwamura to later meet Paul Termini, who retrieved it. Iwamura signed the ball and gave it to Termini, saying the ball he wants to keep is the one from his first regular-season Major League hit.
For Igawa, day games cause an adjustment: New York Yankees pitcher Kei Igawa has to make a lot of adjustments to Major League Baseball after coming over from Japan. Playing outdoors is apparently one of those adjustments he has to make.
Igawa wore sunglasses while on the mound Saturday and pitched well after struggling in his last outing. Igawa played most of his games in domes or at night in Japan.
"Maybe it was psychological," pitching coach Ron Guidry, who had to check the rules to be certain such eyewear is permissible, told Newsday. "But the glare bothered him last time."
In his first outing, Igawa allowed two hits and three walks in one inning of work. On Saturday, he didn't walk a batter in three innings of work.
"(He threw) nice and easy. A lot better today," Guidry said. He'll get strikeouts with his slider. He trusts it more than his curveball. I think he'll give you innings."
Talk with self settles Davies: After walking two batters in the first inning, Kyle Davies settled down and did not allow a run in his four-inning outing on Sunday. He lowered his Spring ERA to 2.25 in three starts.
"He's got good makeup, good composure, and good stuff," manager Bobby Cox told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He's got everything he needs to be successful. But he knows you've got to have good control."
In his outing last Tuesday, Davies threw 50 pitches in two innings. Sunday's appearance was a marked improvement for Davies, who is battling for the Braves' fifth starter job.
"I felt great [Sunday]," Davies said. "The first inning was a little erratic, but I settled down and started throwing strikes.
"I just stepped off the mound and said, 'Listen here, if you don't start throwing strikes you're not going to be out here long.'"