Ethier, Jones bumped from LA outfield
Arrival of Ramirez squeezes pair out of starting time
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre on Friday laid out which two outfielders will get the shortest end of the Manny Ramirez acquisition:
Andre Ethier and Andruw Jones. Torre said Ramirez will be the starting left fielder, Matt Kemp the starting right fielder and Juan Pierre will see most of the playing time in center field. "Matty is progressing and I'd like to keep him in there most of the time," Torre said of Kemp.
Although he started Jones in center field Friday night against Arizona left-hander Randy Johnson, Torre said Pierre will get the bulk of starting time in center, having been dislodged by Ramirez from left field, where Pierre has 69 of his 71 starts, even though Ethier beat him out for the job coming out of Spring Training.
Pierre's ability to lead off seems to be the main reason for Torre's decision.
"To me, Juan certainly deserves the right to play," Torre said. "At this point in time, his experience, his consistency, the way he goes about his business. When [Rafael] Furcal went down, he's meant so much to the club. He brings another dimension, his basestealing ability. He gives a professional at-bat on a regular basis. He's done it [leading off] longer than Matt. He's willing to take pitches.
"Manny hasn't played right field in a long time and we're not going to push that. That being the case, I think we'll look at Juan in center field."
Kemp is hitting .295 with a .351 on-base percentage, an 18-game hitting streak, a team-high 12 homers and 57 RBIs. Ethier is hitting .274 with a .338 on-base percentage, 11 homers and 46 RBIs. Pierre is hitting .283 with a .328 on-base percentage and no power, but has 36 stolen bases despite missing a month with a knee injury. Jones, struggling through one of the worst seasons on record, is hitting .163 with two homers and 13 RBIs.
Torre said he did not plan on replacing Ramirez late in games for defensive reasons and that he had no problem with a defensive alignment that had Ramirez in left and Pierre in center.
Considering that Jones has been an offensive bust in his first year with the Dodgers, it's no surprise that he'll be squeezed out of playing time.
Ethier is quite a different story. Although he hasn't convinced Torre he's one of his three best outfielders, general manager Ned Colletti refused to include Ethier in the Ramirez trade, even though he was the player the Red Sox wanted before settling on Minor Leaguers Andy LaRoche and Bryan Morris at the Trade Deadline.
Trading Ethier would leave the Dodgers thin in terms of outfielders if Ramirez leaves as a free agent after this season.
Torre said he met with Pierre to explain the situation. He did not speak with Ethier.
"Somebody has to sit," Torre said.
Ethier said he had heard the Dodgers refused to deal him but took the high road when asked about reduced playing time.
"We worked hard all of these first couple months to get to this situation where we could get a chance to get to where we want to go, and now we've kind of added another solution that could help solidify what we're going for," Ethier said. "With that, we've got to start focusing on that stuff and put all the individual stuff aside and just say, 'This is what we're going for, and we've got a legitimate shot to do it,' and with this guy we can definitely say that we're going to be a contender and can be a contender."
As for the batting order against the left-handed Johnson, Torre had Ramirez batting cleanup, behind Russell Martin and ahead of Jeff Kent with Kemp leading off and Casey Blake batting second. Kent returned to the lineup after missing a game with a sore knee.
Against right-handers, Torre figures to go with Pierre and Kemp 1-2 and Blake and Angel Berroa 7-8.
"It's important to protect Manny. It's more important to have three guys ahead of him," Torre said. "Pitchers need to pitch to Manny if men are on base and that will be tough for them."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.