The Dodgers were on the verge of parting ways with outfielder Andre Ethier last winter before the deal they were working on fell through.
Eight months later, it's beginning to look like the trade the Dodgers didn't make could turn out to be one of their best moves of the season. Because after starting the year as a bench player Ethier has emerged as an important middle-of-the-order bat in the National League's most powerful lineup.
"It's just playing every day. The opportunity to do it," said Ethier, who went 0 for 2 with a walk in Friday's 5-4, 10-inning loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ethier, 33, made a career-high 685 plate appearances in 2009, but he had fewer than half that many last year, when he led the team in pinch-hit appearances.
He also led the team in trade-rumor mentions.
"I want to play every day. But at the same time, I wanted to be here and be a part of what's going on here," said Ethier, who suddenly found himself expendable. "So I was just waiting for my opportunity."
He finally got that in late April when Carl Crawford when on the disabled list with an oblique strain, opening a spot in the outfield. Ethier has missed just 10 games since — most of them coming against tough left-handed starters.
And he's made the most of that opportunity, batting .281 for the season — and .315 since July 1. So even before Crawford returned from the DL last month, Manager Don Mattingly told him he was now the team's fourth outfielder.
"I never lost faith," Ethier said. "I maybe doubted myself a little bit. You start to wonder. But you never really give up."
Thanks for the memories
Pirates first baseman Michael Morse was briefly a Dodger last month. But his time with the club was so brief, he never left Florida after being obtained in a 13-player trade involving the Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves.
Morse was in the Miami airport and his gear was already on its way to Los Angeles when his agent called and told him another trade was being discussed. So Morse went home and waited for the Dodgers to first designate him for assignment, then trade him to Pittsburgh a day later.
"It's tough to face my old teammates," Morse joked when asked about his reunion with the Dodgers this weekend.
But to make sure Morse doesn't forget his time with the club, former Miami teammate Mat Latos, who came to L.A. in the same trade, sent Morse a photo of his Dodger Stadium locker with a note that "Thanks for the shoes!"
Said Morse: "It was pretty awkward how it went down."
The Dodgers released outfielder Chris Heisey on Friday, eight days after designating him for assignment. Heisey, 30, spent most of the season at triple-A Oklahoma City, but batted .154 in 17 games with the Dodgers.