Ethier appears to be improving

Ethier appears to be improving

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Ethier hasn't liked losing playing time because of the Manny Ramirez acquisition any more than Juan Pierre or Andruw Jones, but he's determined to make the most of it.

Ethier hasn't complained and said he's focused on turning a negative into a positive, which might help explain why manager Joe Torre started Ethier over Pierre on Wednesday night, after saying a day earlier that Pierre would start.

"I liked what I saw last night, and that's why he's in there," Torre said of Ethier, who singled in the ninth and 10th innings of an 11-inning loss. "When the game sped up, he stayed right there. He's come a long way for me in the last month or three weeks."

Torre feels that way even though Ethier is hitting only .224 since the All-Star break. Ethier admits it's unsettling not knowing each day whether he's playing.

"When I get the chance, I'll be happy with it, and when I don't I'll be happy anyway," said Ethier. "This is a chance for me to also learn by watching a guy like Manny play and watch his approach in the game and in the environment we're in of a playoff run. I'm not saying I'd rather sit. I'd rather play. But if this is it, I'll take a positive out of it."

So, what positives has he taken from watching Ramirez's first four games as a Dodger?

"Just about everything," said Ethier. "His approach as a hitter, and it starts [from] in the dugout to when he gets on deck and in the box. The presence he commands, the attention from everybody on the field and in the stands. It's because of the numbers he's put up, but also from the way he carries himself. You don't realize how important that is.

"I see the way he gets locked in before he even gets to the plate. There's not a lot of jabbering from him when he's about to hit. There's a certain preparation needed to get to that level, and I might not have picked all of this up if I had been playing every game. Sometimes you get caught up in your preparation and outcome and results. I could sit in the dugout and say, 'Why me?' I've decided to get something out of it, and it can make me better in the long run."

Torre's lineup had Russell Martin catching and second baseman Jeff Kent resting, replaced by Pablo Ozuna. For Wednesday's day game, Martin will not start and Kent will return to the lineup.

The lineup also again had Ramirez sandwiched by young hitters Martin batting third and James Loney batting fifth. Torre said he spoke to Martin after Tuesday night's loss, particularly about his 10th-inning strikeout with one out, runners on first and third and Ramirez on deck.

"I told Russell after the game, 'You go up with the knowledge that the pitcher has to pitch to you, but you still have to do a little work,'" said Torre. "You have to show the pitcher he still has to throw you strikes.

"A big part of [Ramirez's] protection [in Boston] came from the guys ahead of him. If he hits without runners on base, there's no guarantee what his average will be, or his patience. Guys at the top of the order, it's important for them to get on base to get him the pitch to hit."

Torre said he's seen no sign that Ramirez will change his approach having gone from the protection of veterans David Ortiz and Mike Lowell to Martin and Loney, with Kent dropped to sixth against right-handed pitching.

"Manny will be what he is," said Torre. "He laid off tough pitches last night on that ninth-inning walk. He's got great baseball instincts."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.