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Dodgers' Andre Ethier to start in center field in All-Star game

The right fielder last played in center when he was a junior in college.

July 12, 2010|By Dylan Hernandez

The last time Andre Ethier played center field was when he was a junior at Arizona State University seven years ago.

He will start there Tuesday.

On national TV.

In the All-Star game.

"Wow," said Ethier, the Dodgers' right fielder and a first-time All-Star.

He laughed and shrugged.

"I guess I'm playing center in the All-Star game," he said.

Rafael Furcal, one of the three other Dodgers representing the National League in the game at Anaheim, chuckled when he heard the news.

"Oh, really?" he said.

Furcal paused.

"Oh my God," he said.

Furcal chuckled some more.

NL Manager Charlie Manuel decided to start Ryan Braun in left field and Corey Hart in right.

Asked how he settled on Ethier — or "Ether," as Manuel initially called him in a news conference Monday — the 66-year-old Phillies' manager didn't offer a clear explanation.

"The reason he's playing center field is because when we did the fan voting and the player voting, we, uh, Hart had the … he was ahead of the outfielders," Manuel said. "He has to start. He was supposed to start the game, and Ethier's the one I chose to play center field because I remember he played there a lot.

"We do not have what they call a true center fielder right now. We have some on our roster… at the same time… that was the reason why he started in center field."

Best attempt at translation: When Braves rookie Jason Heyward pulled out of the game with a thumb injury, Hart moved into the starting lineup by virtue of finishing third among NL outfielders in player voting. Braun is a left fielder. Ethier and Hart are right fielders. Manuel recalled that Ethier used to play center field "a lot," so decided to pencil him in there.

Of course, Manuel's recollection was incorrect.

In fact, it was Hart who used to play center field, doing so as recently as 2007, when he played 34 games — starting 28 times — at the position.

Ethier, who was voted into the game by the fans and topped player balloting, looked surprised when he was asked about the last time he played in center.

"Center field?" he asked. "Am I playing center field? I heard rumors. I don't even know the lineup."

He was told that he was batting seventh and playing center.

"Last time I played center field would have to have been … ugff … in college, 2003," he said. "I played the whole year there."

Referring to Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, he said, "Hopefully, Joe doesn't get any crazy ideas."

Ethier laughed and continued.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "Now that you tell me that, I guess it's really starting to set in. Maybe I'll have to ask Torii [Hunter] for pointers about playing center here in Anaheim."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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