Uncertain what to make of Andre Ethier these days?
You know he can’t be happy with his suddenly reduced role, yet there have been no outbursts, no outcry of unfairness, nothing that would approach that classic bout of Ethier temper.
If deep down he is feeling he's the victim of a certain amount of injustice, that would be understandable. He willingly moved from his position in right field to left and then to center and to pretty much wherever he was pointed.
And yet he now is the odd man out. He is not just the fourth outfielder, but more like the fifth with Scott Van Slyke starting against left-handers.
Certainly he has not helped his own cause with his current hitting slump. Since July 4, he is hitting .125 (5 for 40) with three RBIs. But when the Dodgers signed Ethier to a five-year, $85-million contract a whole two years ago, it was to be a star, not a bench warmer.
“It’s tough,” Ethier said. “It’s one where you come to the field every day and just check the lineup card and see if you’re in there. As of late, it hasn’t been, so you have to scale back and figure out what you’re going to do that day to get on the field and help the team win.”
He got a chance Tuesday night, coming off the bench in the bottom of the ninth to pinch hit with the game on the line. The Dodgers were tied 4-4 with the Angels, with runners on the corners and one out.
The Angels brought in an outfielder to use as an extra infielder on the right side, and put all five on the edge of the grass. Ethier stepped up with 11 career walk-offs, cool as could be.
“The pressure is on their side,” he said. “They’re having five infielders, they’re having a meeting on the mound, so the pressure is really on them. It’s also on you to come through, but there’s a little more urgency on their side.”
With the count full, the Angels’ hard-throwing Kevin Jepsen tried to sneak a curveball past Ethier. He sent a little roller to David Freese at third.
Freese charged, barehanded the ball and fired home. Only he fired off line and Juan Uribe crossed the plate with the winning run. Ethier had won the game on a walk-off error.
“It’s not the prettiest one out of all of them, but it feels just as good,” he said.
Not a lot had been feeling good for Ethier of late. He had only nine plate appearances in the last two weeks and only one start in the Dodgers’ last 12 games.
Carl Crawford is platooning in left with Van Slyke, Yasiel Puig is in center, Matt Kemp is in right, and Ethier is left on the outside. And without outrage.
“It’s not the ideal situation, it’s not the way you want it to be, but it’s what we need right now and what we’re doing,” Ethier said. “We’re a first-place team, playing good baseball, and I don’t think anyone can be griping in this locker room about that right now with where we’re at, about [what] anyone’s role is.
“We have to keep doing what we’re doing and we have a team that can possibly achieve something special during the year. All that personal stuff, sometimes that definitely goes away when you realize you have the opportunity to do that.”
The Dodgers are 2 1/2 games up in the National League West with 48 significant games to play. Plenty can change over almost two months, and Ethier has been around long enough to understand that.
Still, he is in foreign place after starting in the outfield for almost nine years. One area columnist called Ethier the most selfish player in town. Wonder what he would make of him now?
“You have compassion for guys that aren't in the role that they really like,” said Manager Don Mattingly. “He's been a really good teammate and handled this very well. I know I appreciate the way he's handled it professionally.
“I think we're at a point that we've kind of hopefully thrown the egos out the door and just trying to win games in a pennant race. It was good to see him come through in that situation and put it in play.”
And right now, that is what to be made of Ethier.