Saturday, April 30, 2011
Andre Ethier enjoying the ride
By Ramona Shelburne ESPNLosAngeles.com
LOS ANGELES -- There are two things Andre Ethier knows for sure: He's not going to catch Joe DiMaggio's major league record 56-game hitting streak; and his beard has nothing to do with the 25-game hit streak he's riding.
Everything else -- The how? The why? -- he's just not worrying too much about.
"I'm enjoying every moment of it," Ethier said Friday after extending his streak with a fifth-inning double off San Diego Padres starter Clayton Richard in what eventually became a 3-2 Los Angeles Dodgers' victory, saved in the ninth inning on a diving catch by Tony Gwynn Jr.
"In the past, sometimes I've had a tendency to grind things out, even when I'm going good, to put more pressure and add more urgency on myself. Not taking a step back and enjoying it."
Andre Ethier has been making noise with his bat lately, but his defense on Friday was pretty good too.
Last season, about this time of year, Ethier was fielding questions about a torrid start -- .392 average, 11 home runs and 38 RBIs through May 15 -- that had him on a Triple Crown pace.
But instead of enjoying the attention, he tried to dismiss it. To keep his head down. To keep grinding it out, instead of basking in the accolades.
Then he broke his pinkie during batting practice before a game in San Diego. When he returned a few weeks later, nothing felt the same.
He hit just .263 with 12 home runs and 44 RBIs the rest of the season.
"I wish I would've enjoyed that a little more," he said of last season. "I think I was just trying to focus and stay tight-lipped. I was pressing too much trying to go out there every day.
"The more and more I play, and get the opportunity to be a hitter, the more you realize how rare and much more limited those situations are in your career."
Ethier spent his off day Thursday with his two young children and against all prevailing wisdom, at least the sort of wisdom superstitious ballplayers like to spout, he shaved off the beard he'd let get shaggy during the Dodgers' six-game road trip.
"My kids at home don't like when I have a beard," he said. "They like to rub up against my face, so I don't care if going on or not, I'm not going to let a beard stop me from playing with my kids."
Ethier is tied with Paul Lo Duca (2003), Steve Sax (1986) and Willie Davis (1971) for the second-longest streak in franchise history. Davis also owns the club record with a 31-game hitting streak in 1969.
As for DiMaggio's mark?
"No one is ever going to pass that record," Ethier said. "It's crazy. To be locked in and getting hits for three weeks is tough. To be doing it for a quarter of a season is crazy."
Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton said his right elbow -- which manager Don Mattingly described as "barky" earlier in the week -- felt good as he had yet another shaky ninth inning Friday night.
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"It's normal soreness I get all year," Broxton said of his previously sore elbow. "It's just a matter of getting the right days off. I asked for the day off, and I felt good out there tonight."
Before the game, Dodgers trainer Stan Conte downplayed the severity of any injury to Broxton's elbow.
"The first time I heard about his elbow, I read about it in the paper," Conte said plainly.
So why was Broxton so shaky again in the ninth inning?
"We're working on that third out," Mattingly said. "The first two are coming pretty easy now. He promised me he's going to give me some easier ones."
Said Broxton: "Hopefully I won't have too many more of these or else I'll have his whole head gray."
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.