© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
07/17/07 11:20 PM ET
Notes: Ethier flourishing under Mueller
Outfielder's average on the rise since hitting coach change
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Since Bill Mueller took over as Dodgers hitting coach, no player has illustrated offensive improvement more dramatically than Andre Ethier. The second-year outfielder was batting .261 with a .311 on-base percentage and .402 slugging percentage when Mueller replaced Eddie Murray on June 14. Entering Tuesday night's game, Ethier's average was up to .294, the on-base percentage to .359 and the slugging percentage to .443. Murray, a Hall of Famer, had a laissez-faire approach to being a hitting coach, leaving it up to players to know what it takes to hit, as he did when he played. Very few players, however, are blessed with the natural hitting ability Murray had. Most must work at it tirelessly. Ethier said he needs a more proactive and personal approach, including immediate feedback on his mechanics, and he's now getting it. "It was tough not having the kind of program I was familiar with," he said. "I had to remember what I used to do to be successful. I've had to go back to the basics. I broke down my swing with Eddie, but with Bill and Manny, we've done it a couple steps further. We're doing the one-handed drill, how I approach the ball, how I use my legs and square up the ball and get my hands in the right slot. "That's why I think you see a lot of difference in my swing. With all due respect, I grew up with a dad who took me out and threw to me nonstop, Whiffle balls or whatever, all day long. It's not my style to sit back, take 10 minutes of batting practice and be ready to play. My dad's way was very proactive, and that's not how it was here. I need someone to see my swing and tell me what's wrong, tell me that I did it or didn't do it." Ethier said the best hitting coach he had while coming up in the Oakland system was Von Hayes, a left-handed hitter much like Ethier. As his Double-A manager, Hayes would remind Ethier of mechanical keys from the third-base coaching box between pitches. "I developed a rapport with him, and some people have it and some people don't," Ethier said. "Now I'm trying to get back to that mentality and frame of mind about hitting. I remember last year when we went to play Oakland, I talked to a few of their coaches and instructors there, and I got more feedback from them because they knew so much about me. When you change teams, it's tough no matter who the coach is." Something to celebrate: While warming up for his 10th start of the season, backup catcher Mike Lieberthal couldn't help but notice the Dodger Stadium scoreboard. In full DiamondVision size and splendor, Lieberthal was treated to a 15-minute video presentation of career highlights, the latest mock celebration of the seldom-used Lieberthal. "My last start [on July 3] was balloons and flowers, so this start, they put my highlight video up there," Lieberthal said, rolling his eyes. "I suspect it's Luis Gonzalez. He was behind the flowers. He said it wasn't, so I don't know who it was this time." Lieberthal also questioned teammate Randy Wolf. "Nope," Wolf said. "I was blamed for it right away, but it wasn't me. I'd take credit for something like that. I'd be nice to Lieby." Lieberthal figures the perpetrator got an assist from Phillies video coordinator Kevin Camiscioli, who likely supplied the highlights, and Lieberthal figured the show was enjoyed by many of his former Phillies teammates. He knows his Dodgers mates enjoyed it, as they "clapped when I hit home runs and made good plays," he said. All that's left is to wonder what's in store for his next start. "This is going to be really tough to top," Lieberthal said. Martin rests, and that's an order: Lieberthal took over for Russell Martin, who will catch Wednesday's day game. Manager Grady Little forbade Martin from even coming out of the clubhouse during batting practice. "You try to give him a day off, and the next thing you know he's out there at shortstop turning double plays," said Little. "I told him I didn't want to see him out here." Run the bases like Pierre: Dodgers center fielder Juan Pierre entered Tuesday night's game with 38 stolen bases and is on pace to finish the season with a career-high 66, which would be the most for a Dodger since Davey Lopes led the league with 77 in 1975. Lopes is in town as Phillies first-base coach. At the corners: Little said he's pleased with the way his corner infielders are handling their positions. He said first baseman James Loney "has a chance to win a Gold Glove before it's over," and third baseman Nomar Garciaparra has "made every play he's had to make." On Garciaparra, Little wanted to add this: "If the day comes when he couldn't play baseball anymore, he could work out a week or two and play with David Beckham in another sport [soccer], that's the type of athlete the guy is." Injury update: Wolf said his shoulder continues to improve and he hopes to be throwing off a mound by Friday or Saturday. He's been out since July 3 and will likely need another two weeks of bullpen sessions and live action before he will be activated. Little indicated Wolf is more likely to need a rehabilitation assignment the longer he's out, meaning he will likely spend a month on the sidelines. Las Vegas update: Roberto Hernandez, likely candidate to be the 12th pitcher when the Dodgers add one, allowed one hit in a six-pitch scoreless inning in his Triple-A Las Vegas debut on Monday night, then he went back to the bullpen and made another 20 throws. Coming up: In Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. series finale at Dodger Stadium, Chad Billingsley (6-0, 3.26 ERA) opposes the Phillies Kyle Kendrick (3-0, 4.40).
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.