SURPRISE, Ariz. -- If Joe Torre decides not to start Andre Ethier in the outfield on Opening Day, wouldn't you want to eavesdrop as the Dodgers manager explains to Ethier why? With Juan Pierre watching from the bench on Monday night -- and refusing to speak about it afterward -- Ethier fortified his credentials for a starting job with a team-high sixth home run this spring, along with a perfectly executed hit-and-run single and two walks. He was also robbed of extra bases by a spectacular Joey Gathright catch of a hard-hit liner. Ethier has 15 RBIs and, perhaps more impressive, 12 walks and only three strikeouts. So this spring, he's got a .359 average, a .481 on-base percentage and a .672 slugging percentage. He's played all three outfield positions without an error. He's shown patience and power and versatility. He hangs in there against lefties (the home run was off left-hander Jorge De La Rosa).
"He's playing his tail off," said Torre. "He's playing really well." Whether that means Ethier will get the nod over Pierre and/or Matt Kemp, Torre isn't yet saying. But Ethier said he's getting used to proving his value. "This is how my career has been," said Ethier, who was acquired from Oakland for Milton Bradley two years ago. "Oakland didn't think I could help them out. I came here and did it. I know I can play every day and help. They must not believe it, that's just the way I see it. "I see plenty of teams out there giving guys a chance. I understand Los Angeles is a whole different market. There are expectations. So, the last two years I've had to open eyes enough for them to believe I'm capable. I know I had to have a big spring -- they told me I had to have a big spring -- to play every day. Sometimes you need a kick in the butt or a chip on your shoulder to bring out the best in you." As for Pierre, he made the bus trip and not only didn't start, but never appeared in the game. Pierre declined to comment, and Torre spent time talking with Pierre in the outfield during batting practice. "He doesn't like not playing," said Torre. "I'm sensitive to that. In my situation, I'm trying to find out as much as I can. Not starting doesn't mean he's not going to play. I'll go talk to him. When I had the four outfielders together, I didn't expect them to be happy about the situation. I just hope they understand what I'm doing." Torre said the appropriate situation didn't present itself for Pierre to be used off the bench early in the game, and he didn't want to get Pierre off the bench late in the game when temperatures cooled. In the game, Kemp went 1-for-6 with an RBI and two strikeouts and is hitting .323. Andruw Jones went 1-for-5 with an RBI and two strikeouts and is hitting .239. Meanwhile, Rafael Furcal, who had a homer and three RBIs, and Chin-lung Hu had three hits each. Hu figures to start at second base if Jeff Kent opens the season on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.