T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers' Andre Ethier tries to make talk about lefties right

I don't know why this happens. I spread joy in the clubhouse a couple weeks back and the last guy on the roster calls me names and wants to spike me into the ground.

"What's the best year I've ever had? What is it? What year did I put up my best numbers?" Ethier says. I can't even remember the name of all my relatives.

"'09, right?" says Ethier, and I remember I had a great year as well — I wasn't 60 yet.

"Thirty home runs, 103 RBI," says Ethier, and actually it was 31 home runs and 106 RBIs. "Wouldn't you say that's my best year? And that's the worse I have ever hit against lefties."

He says people should judge him on his overall contributions and most folks would be thrilled with 30 home runs and 103 RBIs.

Don't tell me; tell Mattingly.

A year ago, Mattingly was talking about maybe platooning Ethier, but then the Dodgers gave him $85 million to apparently only hit righties. Now Mattingly is talking again about making changes if Ethier doesn't improve against lefties.

"What's any of that have to do with where we stand right now?'' says an exasperated Ethier. To be technical, if Ethier had hit left-handers better, the Dodgers might be ahead of the Cardinals rather than behind them.

Ethier is on edge and in a raised voice he's talking about the media doing this and the media doing that, and the only media person talking to him is me and I was here to let him know how important he is to the Dodgers' cause, which means I think he's pretty good.

When it's Mattingly's turn to talk before the game, he says it's important players remain calm. I tell him Ethier is on edge. Mattingly says he doesn't want to talk about Ethier because it has nothing to do with Monday night's game with the Giants.

I guess he doesn't think Ethier will be a factor in the game.

Mattingly then spends his time explaining why he would take Miguel Cabrera over Mike Trout as American League MVP.

Ethier finishes taking batting practice and stops by to chat some more. He says he's sorry for the interview going off track, blames himself and cracks a few jokes.

He's thoughtful and understanding, while explaining how badly he wants to help the Dodgers to win.

If only he could make such adjustments when hitting against left-handers.

"I always want to play,'' he says. "When I would get a text from Donnie during the season telling me he was giving me an off day, I would text back telling him that I wanted to play. Wait a half hour and do it again.''

He says he misunderstood what was being said earlier and all the fight in him is directed to the opposition.

He's all smiles as we talk. I tell him he's ruined the column I was going to write on our clubhouse confrontation by making nice. I sure hope Jim Mora never matures.

I tell him he needs to make amends. I suggest he do something special in Monday night's game.

So he does. Ethier hits a two-run homer, and then Mattingly pulls him in the ninth as part of a double switch so Elian Herrera can hit in the pitcher's place.

Herrera then drives in the winning run, the Dodgers are still breathing and now they must face the Giants' Barry Zito.

Zito is left-handed.

Is there any doubt who starts in right for the Dodgers?

t.j.simers@latimes.com
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