Andre Ethier: Everyone wants to start
In fact, after Kemp sent the first ripples through camp by saying he would not accept a role as a fourth outfielder, he consulted Ethier, the teammate he has known longest.
"I said, 'That's the way I feel. I know if that's the way you feel and, I think, that's the way you should feel,'" Ethier said. "You want guys having that kind of edge to them, keeping their game at the highest level instead of settling for a lesser role.
"The team's made a financial commitment to all of us. If, all of a sudden, a guy says he's happy accepting that kind of role, wouldn't you as a fan say, 'He's happy being complacent?'"
In many ways, the presence of four everyday outfielders for three spots is a bigger worry for Ethier than for Kemp.
If Kemp is healthy, the Dodgers have said, he will play. Before shoulder, hamstring and ankle injuries hit, he was one of the best all-around players in the game. Ethier can play all three outfield positions, allowing him to spell any of the regulars. He also struggles against left-handed pitching, making him an easier player to platoon.
Kemp's health, however, is uncertain. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam next week to determine if he can begin his running program. Kemp still hasn't run on the field, more than four months removed from left ankle surgery. The Dodgers open their season March 22 in Australia. Kemp won't play in those two games, it appears.
"We're not hopeful for Australia," manager Don Mattingly said.
Presuming Kemp returns in April, the plan appears to use Ethier all over the field. He has played the vast majority of his 1,090 games in right field but also has significant experience in center and left. Ethier moved from right to center when Kemp got hurt last year, but before that he was entrenched in right field the previous four seasons.
He said he's willing to give the utility role a go if it helps the team.
"I've done a lot personally and done a lot with this team and I think we're still just missing one thing, [a World Series], so if it's something that leads to that, let's figure out a way to get it done," Ethier said.
Kemp dealt with trade rumors for the first time in his career last winter. Ethier said he has seen his name linked to them for the past five or six years and he's fairly certain they will crop up again.
"I guess it's a little disheartening when you see it," Ethier said. "When it keeps coming around and you see it, you figure it comes with the territory. You don't like it, you don't accept it, but you've got to keep moving on."
As long as the Dodgers have all four outfielders, it will be Mattingly's headache, of course.
"We've got four guys and somebody's not going to be happy and you really can't expect them to be," Mattingly said. "I can expect everybody to be good teammates. We'll do the best we can."
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