Late scares in spring training are the worst. At this point, teams have pretty much decided on how they’re going to break camp, players are rounded into shape and finally honed, and everybody is all packed to go home.
And then a player goes down in the last home game in the Arizona desert.
On Tuesday, it was Andre Ethier who provided the scare, getting hit on the right elbow in his first at-bat against White Sox left-hander Carlos Rodon in the Dodgers’ 2-1 loss to Chicago at Camelback Ranch.
Ethier remained down a while, then left the game to have X-rays at a local hospital. Two hours later came word there was no break. Ethier would be plenty sore, but might be able to return Thursday when the Dodgers open the Freeway Series against the Angels in Anaheim.
Ethier has been overshadowed by rookie phenom Joc Pederson, but after a slow start, the veteran outfielder has put together a strong spring. Pederson seems a lock to win the starting center field job, hitting .368 with six homers, 12 RBI and .400 on-base percentage. Still, Ethier has hit .313 with one homer, 10 RBI and a .389 on-base percentage.
Ethier lost his starting job in the second half last season and made it clear in the off-season that he wanted to either start for the Dodgers or another club in 2015. It has been expected for months that he would be traded, but still owed $56 million, the Dodgers have apparently not attracted a serious offer despite reports that they were willing to eat half the contract.
It wasn’t the greatest day for right-hander Joe Wieland, either, though probably not as bad as his stats appeared. Wieland, a leading candidate to be called up April 14 when the injured Hyun-Jin Ryu’s turn comes up, went five innings and allowed both runs on nine hits. Most of those weren’t hit hard, however, and he did not walk a batter while striking out one.
After he sat down four different relievers -- David Aardsma, Juan Nicasio, Yimi Garcia and Sergio Santos -- each threw a scoreless inning. Garcia struck out all three batters he faced. The bullpen remains the team's toughest remaining decision.
The Dodgers’ only run came from Ethier’s replacement, Chris Heisey, who hit a solo homer in the sixth.
The Dodgers apparently are more popular than ever, at least in Phoenix. The Dodgers said their average of 9,804 fans per game was a new team spring record.
Many Dodgers started returning to Los Angeles after the game. They’re scheduled to play their final game in Arizona Wednesday against the Royals in Surprise.