Ethier's early homer sets winning tone vs. Mexico
Kemp drives in two; Fife earns win with four innings, subbing for Greinke
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Adrian Gonzalez shrugged off Team Mexico's 10-2 loss to a Dodgers split-squad team on Wednesday and said his club is ready for Thursday's opener against Team Italy.
"Today was more of a tuneup," Gonzalez said of Mexico's loss to his other team. "Our [regular] pitchers didn't pitch, and the intensity wasn't the same as last night [against the D-backs]. We had that night-day turnaround. But our hitters were able to get their timing down."
Manager Rick Renteria put a positive spin on the game as well, as far as what Team Mexico can take out of it as preparation for its game against Italy, considered a tournament underdog, on Thursday at 12 p.m. PT.
"We don't take any team lightly," he said of the upcoming match with Italy. "When you let down, you get sucker-punched. It's one game at a time, and we'll do our best to come out on top."
The Dodgers came after Gonzalez and Team Mexico hard early, building a 5-0 lead after two innings, with Andre Ethier's two-run blast keying a three-run first inning that started with Dee Gordon's bunt single to Gonzalez.
Stephen Fife, picking up an emergency start for the Dodgers when Zack Greinke came down with the flu, did a Greinke imitation by allowing only one run on Ramiro Pena's home run leading off the fourth inning.
"We have a very short window to get ready," said Renteria. "All in all, the result didn't turn out the way we wanted, but the guys are coming together, and I think we're ready for tomorrow and looking forward to it."
The Dodgers put the game away with a five-run eighth against Dodgers farmhand Victor Garate, even though the Los Angeles lineup by then consisted entirely of Minor Leaguers.
To preserve pitchers for the tournament, Team Mexico received for this game six Minor League pitchers, three each from the Giants and the Dodgers. Of the seven pitchers taking the mound for Team Mexico on Wednesday, only starter Daniel Rodriguez is on the Mexican roster. He allowed the three first-inning runs.
Meanwhile, with so much familiarity between the two teams, the smack talking began early in the day, as Team Mexico took batting practice alongside the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch.
Luis Cruz, another Dodgers teammate playing for Team Mexico, said it was "weird" to be wearing Mexico's red jerseys while changing after the game in the Dodgers' clubhouse.
"It's been fun getting ready for the games," said Cruz. "Playing today against Stephen Fife, we played together last year at Triple-A. Dee said he was going to bunt at me and I told him don't bunt this way, so he bunted to Adrian. This is fun, even playing against friends."
"I was messing around with them," said Gordon. "It was great to see them representing their countries."
Gonzalez, who has played similar games against his current team leading up to past Classics, said it was no big deal playing the Dodgers.
"It's a game," said Gonzalez. "Just keep that perspective. Enjoy it."
The Dodgers played it aggressively. They stole four bases (two by Gordon) and were caught twice. They had five extra-base hits and went 5-for-14 with runners in scoring position.
The Dodgers were able to get single scoreless innings from three of their big league relievers: closer Brandon League, setup man Kenley Jansen and lefty J.P. Howell. They also had top pitching prospect Zach Lee tossed two innings, allowing one unearned run after an error by shortstop Corey Seager, last year's first-round Draft pick.
The Dodgers pounded out a dozen hits, with nine players scoring runs and seven driving them in.
Mexico was led by Pena and Edgar Gonzalez, Adrian's brother, with two hits each.
Up next for the Dodgers: The Dodgers host the Texas Rangers on Thursday, live on MLB.TV at 12:05 p.m. PT, with Chad Billingsley scheduled to start, Josh Beckett pitching in a Minor League game and Zack Greinke's status uncertain after he was scratched from Wednesday's start with the flu. If Greinke pitches, he will be limited to 45 throws because he was bothered by minor forearm stiffness on Sunday.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.