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 still do not know that he can reliably hit all comers.
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 (on-base plus slugging average) 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.
In that case, however, they could keep Alex Castellanos as an extra right-handed bat. Castellanos hit his third home run this spring--one more than the entire projected starting lineup--in Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Mattingly said he would give Ethier days off against the left-handers that trouble him most. Ethier has one hit in 13 at-bats against Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants, who is expected to start the second game of the season-opening series against the Dodgers.
Among other left-handers within the National League West, Ethier is eight for 43 off Barry Zito of the Giants, four for 28 off Clayton Richard of the San Diego Padres and one for 13 against Jorge de la Rosa of the Colorado Rockies.
The more intriguing question could be whether Mattingly pinch-hits for Ethier against the situational left-handers that opposing managers increasingly use against him. The Giants' bullpen includes left-handers Jeremy Affeldt (Ethier is five for 21 against him) and Javier Lopez (one 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."
The Dodgers do not appear close to trading one of their three surplus starters.
Because Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Ted Lilly cannot be sent to the minors without consent, potential trade partners apparently wonder how little a return the Dodgers might accept in order to clear a roster logjam. The Dodgers do not intend to release any of those players, so the drama could extend into the final week of spring training.
The Baltimore Orioles, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates have expressed interest in the Dodgers' extra starters. The Texas Rangers, who lost starter Martin Perez to injury last week, do not currently appear interested in any of the Dodgers' surplus arms.
Harang gave up two runs and six hits in three innings Saturday, with eight of 16 batters reaching base. As a 10-year veteran, he figures, whatever scouts might see here is less important than his track record.
"Everybody knows what they're getting from me," Harang said. "They should know what to expect."
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