Andre Ethier talks with manager, GM
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier met with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Sunday morning for further examination of Ethier's right knee, in which Ethier says he has experienced gradually increasing discomfort over the past two years and where he probably will undergo minor surgery after the season.
Before that, though, Ethier had another closed-door meeting with manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti to address comments Ethier made in Sunday's editions of the Los Angeles Times, in which Ethier seemed to imply that Mattingly was playing him against his wishes despite the knee pain.
Later, when meeting with reporters, Mattingly vehemently denied that.
"I got kind of blindsided by that (column),'' Mattingly said. "To me, the way I read it was that Dre has been telling us he couldn't play and we said play anyway. That definitely isn't the case. For me, that is taking a shot at my integrity. Not just mine, but the organization, the training staff and Ned.
"His knee has been banged up, there is no denying that. But with that, we check with him. 'Are you OK today?' There have been times when I will get him in the weight room after a game and say, 'I'm giving you the day off tomorrow,' and then he'll come into my office and say he wants to (play).''
Ethier, who had career highs with 31 homers and 106 RBIs in 2009, told the Times: "If you're expecting me to do what I've done in the past, no, there's no possible way I can do that right now. You can say tough it out and give it your best shot, but it's not going to happen. It's only going to get worse from this point. I've dealt with it all season long, but as the season goes on my body wears down. That's just the way it is. I keep getting put in the lineup, so what am I supposed to do?"
After meeting with ElAttrache, Ethier -- who wasn't in the lineup for Sunday's 7-6 loss against the Colorado Rockies but was on-deck to pinch-hit for Rod Barajas when Aaron Miles made the last out of the game -- said the decision to play through the injury was his.
"It has always been my decision to keep playing and keep going,'' he said. "They never said, 'We don't think you can go.' It has always been, 'You obviously can play on with this, so it's at your discretion.' If you physically can go out there and do it, do you tell yourself to stop?''
When asked if Ethier would have been in the lineup Sunday if the Dodgers were still in the NL West race instead of 11 games out, Mattingly said: "None of that to me is really at issue. It's kind of separate from the issue right now. I don't want to get into his dispute, but he basically told me that he's never told us that he can't play. I just told him what I read made it sound like he came out and told us he can't play -- and that we were saying: `Well, we don't care. You're playing.' He admitted that he never said he can't play, but he did acknowledge that he can't control how it comes out."
Ethier said he considered surgery last winter but ultimately opted for a more conservative approach that hasn't worked especially well. He said the condition from which he is suffering is one in which a loose piece of skin inside his knee often gets trapped beneath his kneecap, causing pain, which he said occurs when he plants his front foot on a swing, when he stops after running hard and, often, when he is simply walking.
"I feel cracking and crunching going on in my knee when I'm walking around,'' he said. "I think I have lost a little bit of my athleticism because of the compensating I'm doing. It has changed the way I do some things.''
Ethier said he received a series of three injections of orthovisc, a synthetic fluid that lubricates the knee, over a three-week period that ended two weeks ago.
Colletti also seemed to take exception with Ethier's comments to the Times.
"I talked to Andre three weeks ago, one on one,'' Colletti said. "We talked about the season, talked about the future and talked about the team. (The knee) wasn't a topic.''
Colletti said he then received a call from Ethier's agent, Nez Balelo, while the Dodgers were in Milwaukee two weeks ago informing him that Ethier was experiencing knee problems, that he might need a minor surgical procedure at some point to correct them and that they were affecting his offensive performance, which has been disappointing this season, especially since the All-Star break. "I said, 'Can he play?''' Colletti said. "(The answer was) yeah. I had a conversation with Nez again before the game (Saturday). We talked about a lot of different topics related to Andre and related to the knee. My impression was that it was something that would have to be looked at, but it wasn't something that had to be taken care of right now.''
This isn't the first time this season Ethier has created a firestorm with comments he has made to the media. Two days before this year's season opener -- on the same day pitcher Chad Billingsley was signed to a three-year, $35 million contract extension after talks had broken off on a similar extension for Ethier -- Ethier openly questioned whether he might be entering his final season with the Dodgers, implying their ongoing financial issues might force them to get rid of him.
Ethier is in the final season of a two-year, $15.25 million contract that will pay him a base salary of $9.25 million this year, but he won't be eligible for free agency until after next season. If Ethier and the Dodgers can't agree this winter on a salary for 2012, the team would have the option of non-tendering him -- thus making him a free agent a year ahead of schedule -- rather than going through the arbitration process, in which Ethier would stand to receive a considerable raise despite his disappointing performance in 2011.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.