Regular readers here at Lasorda’s Lair know that I’m an unabashed Andre Ethier fan. When he was relegated to bench duties last season, I wrote articles knocking Don Mattingly‘s decision. When the stat-heads pointed at charts full of numbers and claimed Ethier’s bat had become worthless, I countered that numbers didn’t tell the whole story, as Ethier was one of the best situational hitters on the team. When Matt Kemp was sent off to San Diego, I was glad ol’ Dre was still a Dodger.
Nevertheless, I saw the writing on the wall this year. The up-and-coming kid, Joc Pederson, had once again tore it up in the minors, had nowhere to go but up, and was due to report to Spring Training as a man on a mission. Fellow outfielders Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig were pretty much handed their assignments at left and right fields, respectively, which left plenty of drama to go around as to who was going to be the starting Dodgers center fielder for 2015.
Being a die-hard, died in the Blue wool Dodger fan, I wanted Joc to play for the big club just as much as any of us, but being a guy who’s followed Ethier since he came up himself, there remained a big part of me that really wanted Dre to do well enough to convince everyone in the Dodger Nation from Vinnie to me that he had thrown off whatever it was that dragged him down in 2014.
At the start of Spring Training Don Mattingly assured Ethier that he would not be cheated and he would get plenty of playing time – and to the Skipper’s credit, he remained true to his word. Ethier started Game One of the spring, he had plenty of other starts, and even played as DH. The battle for center field was on, and unfortunately for Ethier, whatever it was that bogged him down in 2014, has clung around his neck like an albatross this year as well.
Ethier is batting .192/.231/.250 so far, while Pederson stepped into the batters box right from the get-go with a
Mar 18, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson in the second inning against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
red-hot bat, and he hasn’t cooled down one bit. He was hitting an incredible .429/.467/.750 yesterday – and I’m willing to bet those numbers inched up even higher after today’s game.
As for the leather, Ethier dropped his first chance of the Spring as a slightly difficult ball bounced out of his glove, but he went on to play adequately enough, as Pederson has shown off his range in the field and made his share of picturesque catches.
When the Dodgers traded away young star Dee Gordon, I was incredibly disappointed because they sent away the kid who had come up through the Dodgers’ system, and was proving to be a young star that we could all enjoy watching as he lived up to his full potential. It seems Joc is now going to fill that role, and I’m happier for that.
Pederson is growing into the role as Opening Day’s starting Dodgers center fielder, while Ethier slowly fades away and disappears.