Dodgers’ Andre Ethier open to contract talks during season


PHOENIX — Andre Ethier would negotiate a contract extension with the Dodgers’ new owners during the season, his agent said Friday.

Ethier, who is under contract this year for $10.95 million, will be a free agent at the end of the season.

“We understand the position the Los Angeles Dodgers organization was in,” said Ethier’s agent, Nez Balelo. “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.”

Ethier was two for four with a home run and a double in the Dodgers’ 9-4 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, raising his spring average to .400. With three home runs and 15 extra-base hits, Ethier appears to be recovered from the knee problems that sapped his power last season.

If Ethier hits free agency, he figures to do so as an All-Star-caliber player in a market thin in offensive talent.

“We clearly understand what next year’s market brings for a position player of Andre’s caliber,” Balelo said. “But we also understand what the Los Angeles Dodgers, the city of Los Angeles and the fans mean to Andre Ethier. We have to give it every opportunity to play out.”

Balelo was encouraged to read that Magic Johnson said the new owners planned to invest heavily in players. Another member of the group, Stan Kasten, said the team’s front-office executives would remain in place for the rest of the season, and Balelo thinks his working relationship with General Manager Ned Colletti could help negotiations.

Balelo was vague when asked about his client’s demands.

“Any time you’re talking about a player of his caliber, at this stage of his career, you’re talking about long term,” Balelo said. “But people look at long term different ways. Long term to me might be different than long term to ownership.”

If there are talks, Balelo insists they be done quickly and discreetly.

“For us to be going through a negotiation that’s going to last weeks and weeks and weeks just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “[Ethier is] going to be involved to a certain degree. For him to have to think about it and wear that on his sleeve for a while … it doesn’t make sense.”

Lilly to the DL

Ted Lilly will start the regular season on the disabled list, Manager Don Mattingly announced.

Lilly will trade places in the rotation with No. 5 starter Chris Capuano. That means Capuano will start the Dodgers’ third game of the season, April 7 against the San Diego Padres.

With the four-game series in San Diego followed by a day off and Clayton Kershaw scheduled to start the home opener on April 10, the Dodgers had already planned to skip Capuano’s first turn in the rotation. Lilly is expected to make his season debut on April 14.

Lilly threw a bullpen session Friday morning, but still has to build up his pitch count. He is scheduled to throw in a simulated game on Monday and start a minor league game April 8.

Reliever assigned

Ramon Troncoso cleared outright waivers and was sent to the Dodgers’ minor league camp.