Andre Ethier fulfilling power potential

More than a third of the regular season is left and Andre Ethier has established a career high in home runs.

Ethier, who hit 20 long balls last season, hit home run No. 21 on Friday and No. 22 on Saturday. The total is the most by a Dodger since Jeff Kent hit 29 in 2005.

“You’re pleased with it,” Ethier said. “You’re happy. You come in feeling like you can do it and like you should, but it’s always a different story when you have to go out there and put the bat on the ball and execute.”

Manager Joe Torre said he saw this kind of power potential in Ethier. Then again, as if to prove the point Ethier tried to make, Torre said he also saw that in James Loney.

Loney has seven home runs.

Of Ethier, Torre said, “He seems a little more committed to what he’s looking for.”


Torre said he expects Loney’s power numbers to increase as he develops a similar understanding of the strike zone.

Ethier’s improved ability to put failures behind him has also helped.

“He’s complex at times,” Torre said. “I think a lot of times he gets so frustrated and he has too many things going on in his mind. Comfort’s important for him.”

Ethier, who admitted that he felt pressure to match his performance from last season, has recently found comfort in batting second in the lineup, directly in front of Manny Ramirez. Four of his last six home runs, including his last two, were hit from that spot.

“You see a lot of pitches to hit there,” said Ethier, who has batted fourth 41 times. “But at the same time, hitting behind him, there are a lot of RBI opportunities. It’s a different situation. Do you want to get good pitches? Or do you want to drive in runs? I need to figure out ways to do both.”

Torre moved him back there Friday.

“I should’ve gotten smarter a long time ago,” Torre said.


Blake sits

A sprained joint in his hand kept third baseman Casey Blake out of the Dodgers’ lineup. He underwent an X-ray exam shortly before the start of the game. The results were negative.

“He still wanted to take batting practice,” Torre said, downplaying the severity of the injury.

Blake felt discomfort when he lifted weights after Saturday’s game. He woke up the next morning with swelling.

Mark Loretta took Blake’s place in the lineup.


Mota’s move

Right-hander Guillermo Mota had an earned-run average of 9.00 through May 21. That number has dropped to 2.98, as he has given up only two earned runs over 36 1/3 innings spanning his last 32 appearances.

Mota, who credited the improvement with a change in his mechanics, said he never lost the belief that he could get hitters out.

“I’m pitching the way I knew I could,” Mota said.


Short hops

Ronald Belisario, who has been sidelined since July 8 because of a strained elbow, will start a minor league rehabilitation assignment with Class-A San Bernardino on Tuesday. Torre said he expects Belisario to be ready to be activated after two minor-league games. . . . Cory Wade was activated from the 15-day disabled list and immediately optioned to triple-A Albuquerque. Wade pitched in Albuquerque on Friday as part of a rehabilitation assignment. “We had no room,” Torre said of the decision to keep Wade in the minor leagues. “It’s a nice problem to have, a little depth.”





When: 7.

Where: Dodger Stadium.

On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 790, 930.

Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw vs. Manny Parra; Tuesday, 7 p.m. -- Hiroki Kuroda (3-5, 4.44) vs. Yovani Gallardo (10-7, 3.13); Wednesday, 7 p.m. -- Jason Schmidt (2-1, 4.50) vs. Braden Looper (9-5, 5.03).

Update: Kershaw, 21, has been the Dodgers’ best pitcher over the last month and a half. He is 5-0 with an earned-run average of 0.79 over his last nine starts. In four of those games, he held the opposition scoreless. Parra has given up nine runs and 19 hits in the 11 innings he pitched in his two previous outings. He beat Washington on Wednesday despite suffering from control problems. Parra, who was charged with five runs and nine hits in six innings, walked five, including two with the bases loaded.

-- Dylan Hernandez