Whither Andre Ethier?
You remember him. Tall, good-looking guy. Clutch hitter. Was leading the majors in almost every hitting category in 2010 before fracturing his right pinkie. A two-time All-Star. Signed to a five-year, $85-million contract in 2012.
Seen him lately?
I mean, besides on the Dodgers’ bench, which apparently is his new baseball abode.
The Dodgers played three key games in San Francisco over the weekend and started the same outfield every game. The one that had Carl Crawford in left, Yasiel Puig in center, Matt Kemp in right and Ethier getting all cozy on the pine.
“It feel like it has a more settled feel,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
Well, yeah, start any combo three consecutive days after the outfield carousel that’s been going on all season and it would naturally feel more settled.
And that’s without Scott Van Slyke, who Mattingly said will still start against left-handed pitchers, presumably for Crawford.
Which leaves Ethier where, exactly?
“To play all over,” Mattingly said. “I think Andre’s been good coming off the bench. He’s probably the guy that has the least maintenance on his swing.”
Talk about a backhanded compliment. You’re so good, we’re going to sit you!
Of the Dodgers’ five outfielders, only Puig is having a must-play kind of season. The five and their 2014 numbers: Puig (.310 batting average, .389 on-base and .532 slugging percentages), Kemp (.277/.343/.432), Ethier (.247/.314/.374), Crawford (.242/.278/.360) and Van Slyke (.257/.381/.514).
Ethier, 32, has tried to play the good soldier, playing wherever they pointed, which was all over. He started in right, played some left, unseated Kemp in center and now finds himself with his nose to the glass. And thanks for your service.
Kemp feels, and looks, more comfortable in right than in left. Crawford and his poor arm can’t really play anywhere else but left. And long term, the speedy Puig is the more logical answer in center. He wasn’t really tested in San Francisco with any shots in the gaps where his full charge could place a teammate in jeopardy, but so far it looks like a good move.
There is always the possibility, with the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline approaching, that the Dodgers are showcasing Crawford and Kemp for potential trade. Yet it can also be argued the current lineup gives the Dodgers their best outfield. Crawford’s legs look the best since he showed up in Los Angeles and Kemp, while still not demonstrating his former power, has 11 hits in his last 27 at-bats (.407). Ethier, meanwhile, has five hits in his last 32 at-bats (.126).
So for now, he sits. These things have a way of changing almost weekly, either by injury or play, or just maybe, trade.
Still, for now, Ethier is the odd man out. The victim of circumstance and his own mediocre play.