General Manager Ned Colletti said he wants to explore the possibility of signing Andre Ethier to a contract extension soon after the Dodgers’ new owners take over the club next week.
“I’ve always been inclined to keep him,” Colletti said. “His start certainly hasn’t hurt.”
Ethier, who will be eligible for free agency when his one-year, $10.95-million deal expires at the end of the season, drove in 21 runs in the Dodgers’ first 16 games. Entering the series against the Atlanta Braves, his runs batted in total was second in the majors behind teammate Matt Kemp’s 22.
Ethier drove in the Dodgers’ first run Monday.
Nez Balelo, Ethier’s agent, has said his client would be open to negotiating a multiyear deal with the team’s new owners during the season.
“We understand the position the Los Angeles Dodgers organization was in,” Balelo said at the end of spring training. “We understand we had to be patient while the transition took place. If new ownership has interest in having discussions to keep Andre here in Los Angeles for years to come, yes, we would be open to having those discussions.”
The Dodgers’ sale is expected to close April 30.
Colletti is relieved to see Ethier has recovered from a minor knee operation he underwent last year.
“He’s a good player,” Colletti said. “There’s never been a question about that. It’s good to see his knee has recovered from the surgery. … When a player’s hurt, you never know how it affects them — their physical well-being and their confidence. It looks like he feels great.”
Ethier, who hit only 11 home runs last season, had already gone deep four times through Sunday.
He’s also doing something he hasn’t done in some time — hit left-handed pitchers. Ethier entered Monday batting .292 against left-handers; he hit .221 against them over the last four seasons.
“I think when he first came up he was pretty good against left-handed pitching, so we know it was in there,” Colletti said. “Sometimes, it’s a matter of confidence. He’s battling them and he’s had some success against them.”
Keeping Loney in line
James Loney has drawn praise from Manager Don Mattingly for not constantly tinkering with his swing the way he has in the past.
Mattingly is partly responsible for that. Mattingly noticed Loney made a mechanical adjustment last week in his first at-bat in his hometown of Houston. He told Loney to go back to what he’s been doing the entire season.
“He had a roll of quarters and he went to the batting cage in his hometown and he knew somebody there,” Mattingly joked, referring to Loney’s habit of taking too much advice.
Soon after Mattingly said that, he noticed Loney talking to former Dodger Kenny Lofton near the dugout. Lofton made a swinging motion, prompting Mattingly to laugh and say, “Oh God. I didn’t see that.”
Mattingly, a basketball fan, was asked how long Lakers forward Metta World Peace should be suspended for elbowing Oklahoma City guard James Harden. “As long as Harden can’t play,” Mattingly said. … Dodgers scout John Green threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Green’s daughter, Christina-Taylor Green, was killed in the 2011 Arizona shooting that wounded Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. … Infielder-outfielder Alex Castellanos was named the Pacific Coast League’s player of the week. From April 16-22, Castellanos hit .440 with four home runs and six RBIs for triple-A Albuquerque.