Andre Ethier was on the move. He had flown into town Thursday to dedicate the Maggie and Andre Ethier Learning Center at the Union Rescue Mission but was catching a quick flight back to Phoenix.
“Hustling back to be home for a playoff game for my oldest son -- coach-pitch Little League,” he said. “They take it seriously there these days.”
It’s his other potential movement, of course, that is of most interest to the Major League Baseball world. Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has said he wants to trade an outfielder to avoid the player congestion that ultimately sent Ethier to the bench in the second half last season.
Which is just fine with Ethier, who played the good soldier last season and did not complain about his bench role. This season, however, he expects to play.
“It didn’t work,” Ethier said. “Let’s do something different. That’s the way I look at it. And I think a lot of people probably look at it that way, too.”
Ethier said he has let the Dodgers new management team know through his agent how he feels.
“Whether to play here every day or play somewhere else,” he said. “It was fun trying to win the way we did last year, but it didn’t prove any more successful than me playing every day or not playing every day.
“I’d rather play every day and help this team win -- or whatever team it is -- to the best of my ability. I feel I can, if given a role. As I stand here today, I’m preparing every day to be a starting outfielder for the Dodgers, until I’m told otherwise. I’m not changing my mind about that. It’s probably going to be a little less wanting to take the same role as I did last year.”
Ethier turns 33 in April and is coming off the worst season of his career (.249, four homers, 42 RBIs in 341 at-bats). That makes him tough to trade, particularly since he’s still owed $56 million.
Ethier understands that Friedman, General Manager Farhan Zaidi and crew are still evaluating the Dodgers from top to bottom, and a trade may not be immediate. And although the message he delivered sounds a lot like a play-me-or-trade-me demand, Ethier said he was stopping short of that.
“I’m not there saying that yet because there’s still a lot of things to hash out and get going with this team,” Ethier said. “It’s one where I said through my agent, I want to play every day, and that’s what I’m expecting to do this year. It’s their decision to make from there what they want to do with that.”
Last season, Manager Don Mattingly initially tried rotating his four outfielders – Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford and Ethier – plus normally starting Scott Van Slyke against left-handers. By the end of July, Ethier had been moved to the bench. Even when Puig went into a horrendous slump, Ethier remained there. And when ballyhooed prospect Joc Pederson came up in September, he even started three games ahead of Ethier. Puig was finally benched and Ethier started in Game 4 of the division series.
A Dodgers team that was favored to win the World Series couldn’t advance one postseason round. Now the good soldier wants to see action.
“We were really trying to win the championship, win a World Series,” Ethier said. “Deep down inside, I really thought we had the ability to achieve that goal. Whether it was me playing every day or not playing every day, at that time last year.
“We were rolling, so there was no need to add another wrench to mess things up. I was ready for whatever the role to be successful. And we weren’t successful the way it was. Obviously that’s why they brought in new guys to make changes.”
Now the wait is on for the new guys to trade an outfielder. And Ethier figures if it’s someone else, it clears a path for him to start. If it’s him, then he’ll start somewhere else.
“I want to be playing every day and be in the lineup every day and find a way to contribute,” he said. “I’ve made my decision to come in and play the best I can next year and be a starter.”