Surprised Ethier plays inning at first base

Surprised Ethier plays inning at first base

LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier imagined the shock he felt was the same felt in the press box.

With the Dodgers' bench thin because of injuries, Dodgers manager Joe Torre approached Ethier and told him he was going to be playing the ninth inning at first base on Thursday. In his five-year, 667-game Major League career, Ethier had never played anywhere but right or left field -- his stint in center in this year's All-Star Game aside.

"I thought It was a joke at first," Ethier said. "But he wasn't smiling. So I said OK ... I think you guys up there were just as shocked as I was."

Ethier took the field with James Loney's glove but saw no action in an otherwise jam-packed, two-run inning that featured an inside-the-park home run from Chris Denorfia that sealed the Padres' 5-0 win. Putting Ethier at first base allowed Torre to keep Ronnie Belliard available as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the ninth. The decision was made when the Dodgers' deficit was still three runs.

"It was what we needed at that time," Ethier said. "It gives us an opportunity to still use Belliard in the ninth inning."

First base isn't entirely unfamiliar to Ethier, who at the least fulfilled the left-handed requirement. In 2002, he was a sophomore in his first year at Arizona State and was the odd-man out in the outfield. The team had a need at first baseman, and he did it.

Since then, Ethier occasionally practiced the position, doing so most recently during the regular season last year. But he hadn't spent any time at first this season, not even in the spring.

"Don't take one off the teeth," Ethier said.

"He's practiced with me a little bit in the past," Loney said. "He wanted to borrow my cup, too."