MILWAUKEE – Manager Don Mattingly benched Andre Ethier for the Dodgers’ series finale at Miller Park on Wednesday, saying he did so because he wanted to field a lineup “that’s going to fight and compete the whole day.”
This will be the third time Ethier is out of the lineup on this six-game trip. The Dodgers are off on Thursday.
Asked if he was trying to send a message to Ethier, Mattingly replied, “We’re last place in the National League West. Last year, at this point, we’re playing a lineup that basically has nobody in it, that fights and competes and battles you every day for every inch of the field. We talk about it as an organization. We’ve got to find the club with talent that will fight and compete like the club that doesn’t have that talent. If there’s going to be a message sent, it’s going to be over a period of time.”
Mattingly wouldn’t say if Ethier is now a part-time player.
“For me, today, I’m putting out my lineup that I feel is going to be the most competitive and going to compete the hardest,” he said.
Asked if Ethier is no longer a player he automatically writes into the lineup every day, Mattingly said, “Well, he wasn’t today.”
Does Mattingly think Ethier won’t fight?
“I can’t really say that,” he said. “I don’t really want to say that, but we’ve got to compete.”
Asked if he was dissatisfied with Ethier’s toughness and mental approach, Mattingly said, “I want to put a club out there that I think for the long range that you can trust, that’s going to fight and compete the whole day.”
Has Mattingly not seen that from Ethier at times?
“Anything like that would need to be a conversation in-house,” he said.
Mattingly said he has had several conversations with Ethier about this over the years. After the 2011 season, Mattingly estimated that Ethier gave away 100 at-bats because of his inability to control his emotions. Asked if Ethier still had similar issues, Mattingly said, “Yeah, at times.”
Mattingly said he felt his club from last season “got more out of our ability.”
Despite fielding a club that was constructed under bankruptcy and missing Matt Kemp for 51 games with a hamstring injury, the Dodgers were in sole possession of first place until late June.
“Part of it is your mixture of your competitiveness too,” Mattingly said. “It’s not just all, ‘Let’s go put an All-Star team out there and play games and the team with the All-Star team wins.’ It’s trying to find that balance of a team that’s got a little grit and a little fight. They’ll fight you and has enough talent to get there also, with that. All grit and no talent is not going to get you there and all talent and no grit is not going to get you there. There’s got to be a mixture of both.”
The Dodgers started adding former All-Stars in July, when they acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins. The following month, they added Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett.