Dating back to Yasiel Puig’s arrival in June 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers have spent the majority of time playing with a crowded outfield. Injuries to multiple players either at the same time or staggered have helped erase some of the surplus, but haven’t remedied the issue.
Despite having traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers entered the 2015 season with the same crowded outfield picture that hovered like a dark cloud at times over the past two years. Joc Pederson earned the starting job in center field, which moved Yasiel Puig back to right.
That left Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke vying for final spot, which figured to primarily go to Crawford based on manager Don Mattingly’s track record. When injuries sidelined Crawford and Puig for multiple weeks it created a window of opportunity and Ethier, the longest-tenured Dodger on the roster, certainly took advantage.
Making 35 combined starts in April and May, the veteran outfielder slashed .305/.395/.519 with six home runs and 19 RBIs; the six homers surpassed Ethier’s total of four in 130 games played last season. “It’s been a work in progress all these years,” he said when asked how he’s been able to adjust to a different role.
“It’s a tough transition to make in your career. You’re coming up in the organization and you want to make a big league team, and you’re doing anything and everything to do it.” Since Puig returned from a strained left hamstring June 6, Ethier has played in 11 of the Dodgers’ last 12 games, including nine starts.
While the 2015 season to this point has been a different story for Ethier, he credited relationships built in accepting a more limited role. “Years pass by and you become a little less quick to react and judge certain things,” he said.
“Over the course of my career, having a good relationship with coaches, players and learning from what they brought to the table, and learning guys over the years who expect to be an important part or not expect to be an important part, they played a certain role that helped this team win.”
Ethier acknowledged the last few seasons with the Dodgers haven’t been picturesque for him, but he reaffirmed a desire to play in Los Angeles and the level of importance it has to him. In the midst of a resurgent season of sorts, Ethier also hasn’t let the opportunity to give a subtle jab to Pederson slip by.
“I think you always hear, sometimes old is new,” he said with a laugh. “That’s what I tell Joc all the time. I’m just excited every day to show up and get my opportunity and contribute. Whether it be my assignment is not only playing, but dealing with Joc on an everyday basis. That’s fun and rejuvenates everyone.”