"I just feel I want to start that way and see," said Torre. "He had an outstanding spring. Sometimes you don't make enough of Spring Training, sometimes you make too much of it. I'm curious. I want to see more. He's had a number of home runs, he's hit off left-handers and right-handers."
Torre said the 30-year-old Pierre, in the second year of a five-year, $44 million contract, was disappointed.
"He's a professional," Torre said of Pierre, who was displaced from center field by the signing of Andruw Jones. "Before it's all said and done, he'll be contributing. I wouldn't want anybody on the bench accepting of it."
Torre said Pierre would start the season as a bench player pinch-hitting, pinch-running and being available to spell a starter. Jones, for example, reported a leg cramp Sunday.
"I'm starting the season this way," Torre stressed. "I have a feeling, I'd like to believe there will be playing time for everyone to contribute and keep sharp."
Pierre had a disastrous spring offensively, hitting .169 with six stolen bases in 24 games. Ethier, 25, hit .365 with six homers and 16 RBIs. Right fielder Matt Kemp, 25, hit .307 with a team-high 18 RBIs.
General manager Ned Colletti downplayed the significance of Torre's decision.
"Is he a bench player or is he not starting tomorrow?" Colletti asked. "It's a long season. You've got to compete, you've got to play. I understand the build-up to Opening Day. But you look at a lot of Opening Day rosters and there are players you can't even recognize. It changes day by day."
Ethier also low-keyed the announcement.
"It's just the first day. Who knows what can happen," he said. "I don't like to put too much into it."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.