With Matt Kemp still on the disabled list when the Los Angeles Dodgers opened their season in Australia, Andre Ethier started both games of the Opening Series in center field.
Ethier remained the starter in center for the next three games, then started one game in right field before finding himself on the bench in the eighth game of the season. Ethier’s roller coaster of a year took him from center field, to right, platooning in left, back to center and eventually a role as a bench player.
Whereas Ethier benefitted from Matt Kemp’s benching and removal from center field, he was unable to overcome the rhythm Carl Crawford established in left field and Kemp eventually following suit in right.
As a result of the inconsistent playing time, Ethier appeared in 130 games, which marked the second-lowest total of his career — only ahead of the 126 he played in as a rookie in 2006. Ethier admitted to 2014 being a trying season, but he nonetheless remained a professional and was lauded by manager Don Mattingly for how he handled the difficult situation.
During one stretch in August, Ethier went 13 days between starts. September didn’t come with much change as Ethier started just three games in the month with two coming in the final two games of the regular season when the Dodgers had nothing to lose as they had already wrapped up the NL West division title.
Ethier’s batting average declined for a third consecutive season and he finished with career-worsts in average (.249), slugging percentage (.370), home runs (four) and RBIs (42).
With the Dodgers hosting the Cincinnati Reds for a three-game set in May and the outfielder still the regular starter in center field, Ethier hit Alfredo Simon well.
Ethier homered in his first at-bat in the second inning and hit a three-run triple in the fourth to extend the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0. The four RBIs Ethier collected were the most he had in any game and it was just one of two instances where he had two extra-base hits this season.
Ethier has three guaranteed years and $53.5 million remaining on his contract and a vesting option for 2018 at $17.5 million that also includes a $2.5 million buyout. Given the declining production and playing time, it’s difficult to envision Ethier playing with any team but the Dodgers in 2015.
However, a second season with a crowded outfield came with its share of headaches and Mattingly said a resolution was needed this off-season. Any trade involving Ethier or Crawford for that measure, would require the Dodgers to pay a significant portion of the remaining salary on the traded player’s contract.
Assuming the same core of outfielders carry over into next season, Ethier will likely be relegated to a bench role once again.