PHOENIX -- This season will be the eighth of Andre Ethier’s career, the first of an $85-million contract. For all that time, and for all that money, the Dodgers really have no idea what to expect when Ethier bats against left-handed pitchers.
For now, he is the Dodgers’ everyday right fielder.
“I’m definitely not going to platoon him,” Manager Don Mattingly said Saturday.
Ethier batted .222 with a .606 OPS against left-handers last season, .325 with a .945 OPS against right-handers. The disparity was there in 2011 too: .220/.563 against left-handers, .321/.878 against right-handers. His career numbers: .238/.649 off left-handers, .311/.913 off right-handers.
The Dodgers have a right-handed complement available for Ethier in Jerry Hairston, but they’ll need Hairston to help in left field at the start of the season, with Carl Crawford expected to start on the disabled list.
Mattingly said he would give Ethier days off against the left-handers that trouble him most. Examples within the National League West could include Madison Bumgarner (1 for 13) and Barry Zito (8 for 43) of the San Francisco Giants, Clayton Richard (4 for 28) of the San Diego Padres and Jorge de la Rosa (1 for 13) of the Colorado Rockies.
The more intriging question could be whether Mattingly pinch-hits for Ethier against the situational left-handers that opposing managers increasingly use against him. The Dodgers open the season against the Giants -- and a bullpen that includes left-handers Jeremy Affeldt (5 for 21) and Javier Lopez (1 for 10).
Mattingly said he would mind his matchups but, when a reporter asked about relievers that Ethier “has trouble” hitting, the manager repeated the question using the words “has had trouble.”
“In general,” Mattingly said, “I don’t think I’m going to be pinch-hitting for Andre.”