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09/22/08 12:00 PM ET

Ethier surges to Aaron Award nod

Outfielder won NL Player of the Week in early September

LOS ANGELES -- When the Dodgers traded for Manny Ramirez on July 31, manager Joe Torre said the move would relegate Andre Ethier to the bench.

That didn't last long.

Ethier returned to a regular starting role on Aug. 9 and hit .390 with 12 doubles, four triples, nine homers and 25 RBIs in his next 30 games to charge into the Dodgers' team lead in batting average, homers and OPS (on base plus slugging percentage) and earn his club's nomination for the MLB Hank Aaron Award presented by Sharp.

This coveted honor is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having a nominee. Fans can vote until Oct. 12 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced prior to Game 4 of the World Series on Oct. 26. Last year's winners were Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez and Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.

Ethier, whose hits have ended three games, enjoyed his greatest week Sept. 1-7 when he led the National League with a .650 batting average, a 1.200 slugging percentage, a .741 on-base percentage and 10 runs scored while also recording two doubles, a triple, two home runs and eight RBIs to share NL Player of the Week honors.

"[I'm] just seeing the ball, staying inside and trying to go the other way," Ethier said Sept. 2 after missing a cycle by a double. "I'm just waiting for my pitch. It's nice having Manny hitting behind you and getting to see some stuff that they're throwing with the caliber and type of player that's hitting behind you."

Ethier continued to benefit from hitting in front of Ramirez on Sept. 5 when he nearly hit for the cycle again, going 5-for-5 with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs, getting thrown out scurrying back to second on one of the doubles that had a shot at being the triple he needed for the cycle.

Torre has consistently praised Ethier's growth as a hitter from earlier in the year when he would get behind in the count and swing out of the zone.

During his hot second half, Ethier has shown much better patience, often fouling off tough pitches to get something he can handle and drawing enough walks to rank second on the club in that category.

"He's just locked in," Torre said after Ethier's Sept. 5 game. "He's getting himself in pretty good positions. Right now, he looks about as relaxed as I've seen him."

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.