The concerns that existed in spring training about whether Andre Ethier would continue to let his temper get the better of him are something of the past.
"To me, I think, last year, he let a bad at-bat sort of affect his other at-bats," Manager Joe Torre said. "I don't see that this year."
What Torre is seeing from his starting right fielder is increased production. Ethier is hitting .327 with six home runs and 26 runs batted in.
"He's able to leave it there," Torre said, referring to an unsuccessful trip to the plate. "In essence, every time up, they're going to have a battle on their hands."
Ethier said that's a result of his better knowing what to do. "I think it just comes with maturity and knowing how guys are going to pitch you," he said, "how to throw the good and the bad out."
The responsibility of hitting fourth in the lineup behind Manny Ramirez has also played a role, he said.
"I think for where I hit in the lineup, it has to be more about the approach than the result," Ethier said. "I feel that whoever's tabbed to hit behind Manny that day, their job is to be as imposing as possible. If you don't take pride in it, you're not playing the game right."
Taking more pitches
Be prepared for a long night the next time you visit Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers are taking more and more pitches.
"That is a plan," Torre said.
Patience is something Torre and his coaches have preached from the time he took over last season.
In 2007, under then-manager Grady Little, the Dodgers saw an average of 3.63 pitches per plate appearance and ranked second to last in the majors in that category, according to Stats LLC.
That number increased to 3.81 in Torre's first season and is up to 3.96 this year, which ranks second in the majors to the Colorado Rockies (4.02).
"It's just being more selective," Ethier said. "All of the young guys are comfortable with it."
The Dodgers lead the majors with 133 walks.
Ethier, who has drawn 18 walks in the Dodgers' 28 games, is one of four Dodgers with 15 or more free passes, the others being Ramirez (25), James Loney (16) and Orlando Hudson (15).
Long games were the norm for the New York Yankees when Torre managed them, so much so that they were urged by the commissioner's office in 1998 to pick up the pace of their games. Torre said he didn't change the way he managed.
"Your purpose isn't to make the games longer," Torre said. "Your purpose is to do what you need to do."
Hiroki Kuroda isn't sure when he'll be able to throw off a mound again, but based on the way he felt playing catch he claimed that he hasn't lost much arm strength nursing a strained side muscle. "My shoulder isn't at zero," Kuroda said. "I think I might be able to move pretty smoothly once my side heals."
Eric Stults might have saved his spot in the rotation Monday night when he threw 5 2/3 innings of two-run ball. The solid outing followed a calamity five days earlier in San Francisco, where he lasted 2 2/3 innings.
Stults said he was helped by the addition of a cut fastball that he started throwing in his last bullpen session.
"I'll continue to work on it," Stults said.