Saturday, June 12, 2010
Ethier the NL batting leader again
By Tony Jackson
LOS ANGELES -- By coming to the plate four times in Friday night's loss to the Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier finally became eligible to rejoin the list of the National League's leading hitters for the first time since he returned from the disabled list on May 31.
Despite the fact he entered Saturday night's game hitting just .256 since being activated, Ethier went right back into the top spot, where he held a 28-point lead over second-place Marlon Byrd of the Chicago Cubs.
Ethier, who was hitting .392 when he broke a bone in his right little finger on May 15, was hitting .357, a precipitous, 35-point drop since his return. In his first 11 games back, Ethier had no home runs and just two RBIs in 43 at-bats and only four walks in 49 plate appearances. His on-base percentage had fallen from .444 to .418.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, for one, isn't concerned and cited the fact opposing clubs probably are pitching to Ethier very carefully because of the sizzling start he got off to.
"He has had great at-bats," Torre said. "Certainly, he understands that there aren't too many ballclubs, as long as he is hitting .350 or .360 ... that aren't saying, 'Let's not let this guy beat us.' But I think he's fine. He's hitting the ball with authority to left field."
Although he was 0 for 3 with a walk Friday, Ethier has appeared in recent days to be heating up. Between Tuesday and Wednesday victories over the St. Louis Cardinals, he hit safely in four consecutive at-bats and five of six, including three of those four doubles he has hit since coming back.
Ramirez, DeWitt sit
Both left fielder Manny Ramirez and second baseman Blake DeWitt were out of the starting lineup Saturday.
Torre usually rests Ramirez for day games after night games but decided this time to rest him for the night game before the day game instead because Ramirez was hitting only .159 (7 for 44) for his career against left-hander Scott Kazmir, the Angels' Saturday starter -- not that Ramirez is hitting that much better against Sunday starter Jered Weaver (2 for 12, .167), but that is a much smaller sample size.
Torre rested DeWitt even though left-handed batters are hitting a collective .457 (21 for 46) with three homers off Kazmir this season. Torre said he was simply trying to get a start for utility man Jamey Carroll, who was hitting .289 overall but hadn't been in the lineup since Sunday. Torre was quick to point out that Ethier and first baseman James Loney, both left-handed hitters, were in the lineup.
Torre said the only regulars who might rest Sunday are third baseman Casey Blake and shortstop Rafael Furcal, but he wasn't sure on either one of them. Torre also said catcher Russell Martin will play Sunday because Monday is an off-day.
Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda donated $50,000 -- twice the amount he gave last year -- to ThinkCure!, the Dodgers' official charity, as part of this year's annual ThinkCure! weekend at Dodger Stadium. Kuroda lost both his parents to cancer. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig also contributed $25,000 to ThinkCure!
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.