GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Leyson Septimo of the White Sox has pitched only 14 1/3 Major League innings, but he's left-handed, and that was enough for Andre Ethier to relish the triple he slugged off Septimo in Saturday's exhibition opener for the Dodgers.
"Now you guys will have nothing to write about," Ethier said, mocking his Spring Training mission of relearning how to hit against lefties.
He's been working with new hitting coach Mark McGwire, new assistant John Valentin and has spent extra time taking batting practice against left-handed manager Don Mattingly. Maybe he just imagined that Septimo was Mattingly.
"I wish it was that easy," Ethier said. "Me and Mac, I've been seeing a lot of left-handed curveballs [off a pitching machine] every day. I just have to figure out how to get better at it."
Ethier hit .284 last year, but .222 against lefties, 103 points higher against righties and a 339-point differential in OPS against right-handers versus left-handers.
Ethier said he welcomes McGwire's focus, which is on pitch recognition and selection, not mechanics.
"But the hitting coach can only say so much," Ethier said. "In the box, it's you and the pitcher and everything else is out the door."
Mattingly finds several positives in tough opener
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- His pitchers allowed nine earned runs. His hitters managed only three hits. So Don Mattingly was asked if he still liked his $220 million team?
"I haven't given up yet. I give up easy, but not that fast," Mattingly joked after the Dodgers were blanked by the White Sox, 9-0, in Saturday's exhibition opener.
Despite the blowout result, Mattingly found some good news. It began with the defensive play of shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who ranged far to his left to steal a hit by Dayan Viciedo, spin 360 degrees and throw him out at first.
Mattingly, however, was equally impressed with Ramirez's assertiveness in putting on a pickoff play at second base in the first inning. Ultimately, the play wasn't executed properly, as Ramirez lost sight of Clayton Kershaw's throw that sailed into center field for an error charged to Kershaw.
"I want [Hanley] to keep trying all that stuff," said Mattingly. "When he came over during the season, it was hard to work on that with him. It's all about timing."
Ramirez went 0-for-3 at the plate with a lineout and will bat leadoff again Sunday, as the Dodgers want to give him as much playing time as possible before he leaves to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
Mattingly also was impressed with the play of $42 million Cuban Yasiel Puig, who hustled to beat out a double-play grounder, then doubled into the left-center gap. Puig, with a frame like Bo Jackson, was running aggressively considering the Dodgers were down big by the time he got in the game, but Mattingly said that can be worked on.
"That's what you get when you play full-speed," he said. "I'd much rather that than to have to kick him in the [rear end]."
The first Dodgers hit was by Juan Uribe, heading into his third season and now trying to find a role.
"He squared the ball up both times," said Mattingly. "He's been working with Manny [Mota] on going to right field. He was good today."
Uribe, the designated hitter on Saturday, will be used at first base in his next appearance, Mattingly said.
Kershaw feels all right on first day
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw allowed two runs in two innings of Saturday's exhibition opener, but there's no need to panic.
"Physically, I feel great," said the Dodgers' Opening Day starter. "I got behind in some counts. That's a good lineup. For the most part, for the first day, I felt all right. You never like to give up runs, but I guess it's better now than April."
Kershaw allowed four hits, including RBI doubles by Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham. He also struck out three, including Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn, with no walks. After his two innings, he went to the bullpen and threw 15 more pitches.
Ronald Belisario followed Kershaw, loaded the bases with no outs, then allowed a two-run ground single by Dayan Viciedo. Non-roster reliever Mark Lowe pitched a scoreless inning and was acknowledged by manager Don Mattingly afterward for a curveball that the White Sox seemed to have trouble picking up.
Lowe credits pitching coach Rick Honeycutt with an adjustment that made him more comfortable on the rubber.
"I had been too tense, and we've worked on getting me relaxed," said Lowe. "It's worked. It's nice to come here and have coaches like Rick and Sandy [Koufax] and the others. I like everything here."
Mattingly also said he was impressed with rookie right-hander Matt Magill, who struck out three of the five batters he faced.
Hard-working Hairston happy to get back out there
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- There was some measure of satisfaction for Jerry Hairston on Saturday just being in the starting lineup for the Dodgers' exhibition opener.
Five months ago, bedridden after hip surgery, he doubted it was possible.
"It wasn't easy," said Hairston. "I worked really hard to get back. But for the first three months, I didn't know if I'd be able to play at this level now."
Hairston, 36, underwent hip labrum surgery in Vail, Colo. by Dr. Marc Philippon. His left leg was placed in traction to separate the leg from the hip enough to insert arthroscopic tools in the joint. Torn labrum was repaired and an irregularity in the head or neck of the femur that caused an impingement was shaved to allow for smooth rotation in the joint. When the ball and socket don't fit properly, friction tears the labrum.
The rehab required one month on crutches and two months hooked up for six hours a day (while lying down) to a continuous passive motion device that automatically flexes the leg to reduce pain and inflammation and protect the healing tissue.
Alex Rodriguez has had similar operations on both hips. Hairston spoke to Rodriguez and Brian Roberts, another surgical patient, before having the operation.
"The first month was painful lying in bed," said Hairston. "I just pictured myself playing again. It helped realize a goal, helped to fight through it."
Hairston said his hip began bothering him shortly before he strained a hamstring muscle in May. He said the injury originally presented itself as tightness in the groin area. That type of referred pain is common because of sensitive nerves in the hip.
Hairston was hitting .315 when he pulled the hamstring. In his third game back at the end of May, he went 5-for-5. But by mid-June, the hip worsened. In mid-August while in Miami, Hairston felt severe pain diving for a ground ball and decided it was time to say something.
Hairston started Saturday in left field, in place of another rehab patient, Carl Crawford. Manager Don Mattingly said he intends to use Hairston on the corners in both the outfield and infield this year.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.