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Thursday, September 29, 2011
Andre Ethier needs more control

By Tony Jackson
ESPNLosAngeles.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Meeting with reporters for the final time Thursday before heading home to Indiana in a few days, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly discussed almost every player on his roster. Among those players was high-strung right fielder Andre Ethier, who Mattingly says still needs to prevent his emotions from undermining his performance.

"I talked to him the other day about it," Mattingly said at the team's spring-training complex before observing the organization's Instructional League program. "I think it was better this year than last year, honestly, but it's still too much. I don't mind a guy getting emotional and getting mad, but just don't give away at-bats. To me, I felt like he gave away probably 100 of them."

Ethier missed the final three weeks of the season because of a knee injury that had bothered him all year and ultimately required arthroscopic surgery for the removal of loose bodies. Before that, he had a decent season offensively, hitting .292 with a .368 on-base percentage, but his power dropped off dramatically, Ethier hitting only 11 homers, the lowest total of his career for a full season.

Mattingly said what he was talking about when he described Ethier as "giving away" at-bats was a tendency to lose focus at the plate, making it easier for a pitcher to get him out.

"It's getting frustrated to the point that you're not concentrating," Mattingly said. "Dre gets frustrated to the point that he loses focus. Now, all of a sudden, you're chasing bad balls, maybe swinging at pitches early in the count that you don't want to swing at, and your focus gets off your plan."

Mattingly also was candid when discussing right-hander Chad Billingsley, whose ERA ballooned by more than half a run from last season (3.57) to this year (4.21) and whose development seems to have plateaued.

"I have been here four years, and to me, with Chad, it seems like he has been right (at the same level) the whole time," said Mattingly, the team's hitting coach before taking over this season as manager. "I feel like he should be trying to get a little better, a little better, a little better. For me, it has kind of been flatlined. It wasn't bad. He took the ball 32 times and kept us in games. ... We know he has the ability to get people out, and he has the pitches, the stuff, to do it.

"To me, it's up to Chad."

Gordon rookie of month

Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon was named the National League's Rookie of the Month for September on Thursday. After coming off the 15-day disabled list on Sept. 1, Gordon hit .372 with a .398 OBP. He also had seven doubles, a triple and 21 runs scored and stole 12 bases in 16 attempts, all of which led Mattingly to say earlier this week that Gordon has earned a shot to be the every-day shortstop and leadoff man next season.

Gordon, the Dodgers' fourth-round draft pick in 2008 and the son of former big league reliever Tom Gordon, was promoted to the majors for the first time on June 6. In two big league stints this season, he batted .304 and stole 24 bases in 31 tries.

A front-office hire

Six months after the departure of former assistant general manager Kim Ng to join former manager Joe Torre's staff in the baseball-operations department at Major League Baseball, the Dodgers finally have hired someone to be the point person on all their arbitration cases this winter, a role Ng played with considerable success over the past decade.

Alex Tamin, a local attorney who holds a law degree from UCLA, has been named to the position of director of baseball contracts, research and operations. Although his title is different from what Ng's was, he will handle all arbitration cases.

Attorneys routinely are brought in to argue those cases when they actually go to hearings, and Tamin has spent the last 15 years serving as one of those attorneys for a handful of big league clubs, including the Dodgers.

Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said via text message that Tamin also will be "part of our baseball decision-making from a statistical/analytical perspective."

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.