Remember Andre Ethier?
A 6-foot-2, two-time All-Star outfielder for the Dodgers? Had seven consecutive seasons with 30-plus doubles? Moved seamlessly to center field when Matt Kemp got hurt last season and the Dodgers were in trouble?
Come on, go deeper in the memory banks. You can do this, though it’s understandable if it’s unexpectedly difficult. He hasn’t been seen much of late.
Ethier is not in the lineup again Friday against the Mets, same as he hasn’t been for a week. He has started four of the Dodgers’ last 20 games.
He has been an outfield starter ever since he arrived in 2006, so possibly you’re wondering how he’s dealing with his new role?
“What role?” Ethier said. “What role is that? They still haven’t said what my role is.”
In a series of dominoes beyond his control, Ethier has gone from opening-day center fielder, to right fielder, to left fielder, back to center and finally to the bench.
Manager Don Mattingly now has a set outfield of Carl Crawford in left, Yasiel Puig in center and Kemp in right, with Scott Van Slyke starting for Crawford against left-handers.
“We were trying to find the right combination of guys,” Mattingly said. “It just took a while. People think I set the lineup. I really don’t, they do by the way they play. Matt was swinging the bat well and kinda pushed himself into an everyday spot. Carl’s gotten hot and been very competitive for us. They just worked it out.”
And worked Ethier out of the lineup. Certainly his numbers this season -- .245 batting average, four homers, 40 RBI, .310 on-base percentage -- haven’t demanded that he be a regular.
But he’s also 32 years old with another three years and $57 million left on his contract after this season.
Ethier said he has little choice but to come to the ballpark every day ready to play, look at the lineup and see if he’s in there. He said there’s been precious little communication on his current role, and if anything, that’s what seems to irk him the most.
“Wouldn’t you want communication to know what’s expected of you?” Ethier said.
The Dodgers probably figure the situation is pretty self-evident. Crawford, who like Ethier hits left-handed, has been hot lately (.459 since Aug. 8).
“I’m just trying to put the best lineup out there that’s going to help us win,” Mattingly said. “It’s what I think right now is best for us.”
Life as a reserve is a new and unexpected role for Ethier. In 2010 after 125 at-bats he was a triple-crown threat (.392, 11 homers, 38 RBI) when he fractured his right pinkie. He had the Dodgers’ second-longest hitting streak (30) in history the next season.
Now he’s mostly a pinch-hitter.
“I still come to the ballpark every day and look at the lineup to see if I’m in there,” Ethier said. “The lineup comes up and that’s the first you know if you’re playing or not.”
Ethier also knows these things can change quickly, but you wonder how long his patience can run. For now, he has little choice but to try to adjust to what has to be a difficult new role.
“I’m not saying it’s easy,” Mattingly said. “We’re just asking he do the best he can with it. We try to be understanding that it’s not an easy role.”Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times