Ethier was quoted in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, implying that the club was forcing him to play hurt. Ethier earlier has said that the knee injury he suffered toward the end of Spring Training 2010 would need clean-up surgery after this season.
His pointed comments in the column ignited a controversy that indicted club decision makers and infuriated teammates. But Ethier backpeddled an hour before game time, agreeing with the club that he never told officials he was too injured to play.
In fact, he said he was surprised not to be playing on Sunday.
"It's always been my choice to keep playing," Ethier said.
But he said the condition -- loose particles that get caught under the kneecap -- triggers pain that results in a change of mechanics because he cannot stiffen his front leg, the likely reason for this year's significant drop in power (.411 slugging percentage vs. .491 career).
Ethier said he chose not to have surgery last offseason because he was also rehabbing a chronically sprained ankle, but he plans to have the procedure this winter. He said he's had three injections in recent weeks of Orthovisc, a joint lubricant frequently used by arthritis patients.
Meanwhile, Ethier rejected speculation that he wants to leave the organization.
"It's still a great organization. But, obviously, a lot of things need to be changed," he said. "For the team, for the fans, for what the place should be. I definitely want to be here. We were going in a great direction before the divorce [of owners Frank and Jamie McCourt]. I can't say an ownership change is warranted. Everyone knows things aren't right, we definitely agree on that. How do you make it better?"
Colletti said Ethier has not asked to be traded.
"No, just the opposite," said Colletti, who said he still hopes he can lock up Ethier, as well as MVP candidate Matt Kemp, long term.
Colletti said the controversy hasn't changed that desire, which he said was raised in recent talks with Ethier's agent, prompted by the injury. Colletti, however, insisted the club did not force Ethier to play hurt. Mattingly, in fact, took that inference personally.
"I got kind of blindsided by this," said Mattingly. "That's taking a shot at my integrity, at the organization and training staff and Ned -- and personally that I would put a guy out there that was hurt and risk his career. I'd never do that. That's not in my DNA. I'd rather lose my job than put a guy out there with the chance to hurt himself or his career in a long-term way. We knew 'Dre is banged up. But I always check with him, and he's never said he couldn't play.
"In fact, there was a day game [against Houston], and I told him in the weight room he wasn't playing -- and later he came into my office and said, 'I want to play.'"
Mattingly declined to speculate on whether Ethier's comments in the article were motivated by contractual desires or to serve as an excuse for the outfielder's second-half slump. Instead, Mattingly said if Ethier needs surgery now, "he's better off to get it now."
"He's told me he wanted to keep playing, and it's been his decision to keep playing," said Mattingly. "He never told us he can't go.
"It's pretty easy to pile on the Dodgers now. But this, to me, is off base."