SYDNEY, Australia -- As much as bombastic Dodgers President Stan Kasten tries to convince people otherwise, it’s clear not all of his players like the idea of starting their season on the other side of the world.
Working out at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Tuesday turned the usually affable Andre Ethier into the moody Andre Ethier of years past. Without the slightest trace of a smile, a clearly irritated Ethier sarcastically recited the company line.
“Glad to be here,” Ethier said. “Fun trip. This is a good time. Great for baseball. Good for Australia. Happy to be here, guys.”
What prompted the snide remark were questions regarding the conditions in center field, which he will be defending in the two-game series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. He obviously didn’t like what he saw out there.
When the stadium is used for cricket, that part is known as the pitch, a rectangular clay strip covered with short grass on which most of the game’s action takes place. Longer grass was grown there as part of the ground’s transformation into a baseball field, but the area remains hard.
Asked what it was like out there, Ethier said curtly, “I’m here to play a baseball game. I boarded a plane last night and this is where I landed. I’m here to play.”
Told of how Diamondbacks center fielder A.J. Pollock described it, Ethier snapped, “Write whatever he said.”
So we will.
Pollock was in good spirits. He spoke respectfully about the venue and its history, in particular of how the ashes of some deceased players and umpires have been spread on the field.
“But it poses a lot of challenges for us,” Pollock said. “It’s probably the quickest field I’ve ever seen.
“You go out there and throw a baseball, it just scoots off it.”
Pollock said the playing surface hardens at the Diamondbacks’ home of Chase Field when the Arizona heat dries out the grass. But, he added, “It doesn’t have that same zip like it does here.”
Dodgers utilityman Chone Figgins said the field reminded him of the field at the Oakland Coliseum after a football game had been played on it.
“Extremely fast,” Figgins said.
Figgins said he was asked by rookie Joc Pederson on how he should field balls out there.
Figgins recalled telling him, “Just get to the ball, make sure you catch it. Don’t try to be heroic and throw a guy out because if it skips past you, you’re going to end up giving up four bases instead of two. Make sure you get over and just knock it down.”