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07/27/08 4:44 PM ET
Ethier back in lineup after two days off
Torre says he will go with hot hand in crowded outfield
By Michael Schwartz / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' offense often stalled earlier in the season when the light-hitting bottom of the order came up. That will not be the case Sunday, at least on paper, as newly acquired No. 7 hitter Casey Blake and No. 8 hitter Andre Ethier pack some punch, combining for 22 home runs and 103 RBIs on the year. "That's pretty good," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "Other than the fact that when you decide to give [catcher] Russell [Martin] a day off, the guy who hits eighth shouldn't be embarrassed because the guys who are hitting ahead of him are certainly quality, too." Ethier, who has been an everyday starter since outfielder Andruw Jones went down in late May, got the past two days off after Juan Pierre returned to the lineup on Friday as the Dodgers were faced with the prospect of having four starting outfielders for three spots like they did before Jones' injury. Both games came against left-handers. Torre has not forgotten the reason why the Dodgers signed Jones to a two-year, $36.2 million dollar contract in the offseason, but for now he appears to be leaning toward keeping Ethier as an everyday player despite his past two days off. "It's a feel type of thing that I'm going to do. I'm going to try to match up when we think it's appropriate, but right now we're going to go with hot hands," Torre said. "When guys stay hot, those are the guys that are going to play. We're at the time of year now where wins are very important for us. That's what our goal is right now." But that does not mean the Dodgers have given up on Jones, who has hit just .166 with two homers and 12 RBIs this season with 68 strikeouts in 187 at-bats entering Sunday. His numbers have not differed much since missing 38 games following arthroscopic knee surgery, as he's hit .167 with five RBIs in his 18 games back. Torre said Jones has been working hard, but it's tough for a player to think about his mechanics while playing, which Jones is doing as he tries to make adjustments. The manager holds out hope Jones will contribute down the stretch. "There's a lot left in this season where we still feel that he can help," Torre said. "He can help himself. I think a big part of his problem he got the leg fixed but the emotional part of starting out badly is having to deal with what he's having to deal with."
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.