GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The competition for the right to hold down Blake Hawksworth's roster spot, as long as that spot remains open, is well under way in Los Angeles Dodgers spring training, and the list of candidates seems endless. There are Wil Ledezma, Jon Grabow, Scott Rice, Jamey Wright, Ramon Troncoso and Josh Lindblom just to name a few.
As for Hawksworth, who had to have a second surgical procedure to clean out an infection in his right elbow shortly after he had a first surgery this winter to remove scar tissue and a bone spur, he is only now beginning to play catch and isn't expected to return by April 10, which would be the first day he is eligible to come off the disabled list.
Eventually, though, Hawksworth is coming back from the DL, and he is out of minor league options, so we probably can presume his roster spot will be there for him whenever he is ready to reclaim it.
So is this battle to earn the last bullpen spot on the opening-day roster really just a battle to be a temporary placeholder?
``You say that, but then you might have a guy throwing up zeroes every day,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. ``It's a competition. It's hard to say a guy is a placeholder when he throws zeroes every time out there. It's all about opportunity.''
Meanwhile, Andre Ethier will return to the lineup this afternoon against the Los Angeles Angels, and he will play right field. Mattingly had him penciled in at designated hitter as a precaution after Ethier was scratched from a game on Saturday because of stiffness in his back, but trainer Sue Falsone told Mattingly that Ethier not only was OK to play defensively but that he might actually benefit from it because the increased activity could be better for his back than sitting around as much as a DH normally would during a game.
And finally, one leftover note from Sunday:
Although the Dodgers are off to a sizzling start in the Cactus League with a 5-1-2 record -- something that in reality means absolutely nothing -- Mattingly is growing impatient with the unusual number of fundamental miscues.
``For me, we have gotten a little lazy lately,'' he said. ``We have missed some cutoffs and missed some signs. I think it's just that part of the spring where we have to push ourselves to be a little better.''