07/25/08 9:57 PM ET
Ethier left out of starting lineup
Pierre returns and Torre goes with Jones despite .166 average
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
"Because that's the way I wrote it down," Torre said, when questioned why Jones and his .166 batting average were in the lineup for the opener of a 10-game homestand and Ethier, batting .277, was not.
When it was suggested that Jones, who volunteered to return early from knee surgery, could return to a Minor League rehab assignment, Torre said: "When you get your team you can run it your way. For now, we'll do it our way."
Torre's brief annoyance with the line of questioning quickly shifted to a reasoned explanation focusing on the fact that Washington was pitching left-handers John Lannan on Friday night and former Dodger Odalis Perez Saturday night. Jones is batting .186 against lefties, Ethier .205.
Torre also implied that he wasn't ready to pull the plug on Jones just yet, citing an opposite-field double in Colorado Wednesday as a sign that the work with batting coaches Don Mattingly and Jeff Pentland might be paying off.
"It won't happen overnight, he won't get four hits or five hits in a game. It will be a little at a time," Torre said. "I hope he continues to get quality at-bats. I see at-bats that encourage me. The double was important, because he had been trying to pull the ball."
Torre said he met with Ethier and asked for patience. At least for the first two games of this series, Ethier lost his job to a player (Pierre) returning from injury that he originally beat out in spring competition for the Opening Day job, while Jones remains in the lineup despite being a season-long disappointment. Matt Kemp, hitting .290, has pretty much been a starter since Spring Training.
"I told [Ethier] to just bear with me," Torre said. "I also told him how proud I am for how far he's come and just bear with me while I get a feel for how long it's going to take. It can't take a month. We have to make up our minds in smaller increments.
"In Andruw's case, I want to see more of what I've seen some of. Keep in mind, if you go back to the start, Andruw was a huge part because of what he brings to the table and I'm not about to ignore that. We signed the guy for a reason. His experience, being on championship clubs. But he's struggling. That's where the dilemma is for who gets most of the action. If I saw no progress it would be an easier decision to make."
In an amazing stroke of timing with the club needing a roster spot for Pierre, it was announced that Delwyn Young suffered a strained oblique muscle while pinch-hitting in the ninth inning Wednesday in Colorado. He took Pierre's spot on the 15-day disabled list. Young said he was injured swinging at a Brian Fuentes slider.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.