One day after implying that the Dodgers had told him to keep playing through a knee injury that had altered the mechanics of his swing, right fielder Andre Ethier clarified his comments.
"It's always been my choice to keep playing and keep going," Ethier said Sunday before the Dodgers' 7-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium. "They've never said, 'We don't think you can or you can't play.' It's always been they've said, 'Hey, you've obviously put up with this and it's at your discretion.'"
Ethier told Times columnist T.J. Simers on Saturday that he had informed the Dodgers that his injury had impacted his swing.
"They know," Ethier, who has hit .224 with seven runs batted in since the All-Star break, said Saturday. "But they've told me, 'Grin and bear it.'"
Ethier never contested the accuracy of the quotes Simers had attributed to him. Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly described himself as "blindsided" by Ethier's earlier remarks, which he said called into question the integrity of Dodgers management and the team's training staff.
"I'd rather lose my job and us not win than put a guy out there that has a chance of hurting himself and doing something that would affect his career in a long-term way in any shape or form, especially if he says, 'Hey, I can't go,'" Mattingly said.
Mattingly met with Ethier and General Manager Ned Colletti for about 15 minutes before the game to discuss Ethier's comments from the previous day.
"He basically tells me that he's never told us that he can't play," Mattingly said of Ethier. "I said, 'The way I read it, it makes it sound like you came out and told us you can't play and we're saying, "Screw him, we don't care. You're playing." '"
Mattingly held Ethier out of the starting lineup against the Rockies so that his right knee could be examined by Neal ElAttrache, the Dodgers' head team physician. Mattingly said he told Ethier he wanted him to reach a conclusion on his knee and inform him of his decision whether to keep playing.
Ethier was in the on-deck circle when the Dodgers' Aaron Miles hit a game-ending fly ball.
Dodgers trainer Stan Conte declined to comment on Ethier's knee, even when asked whether he could confirm that the outfielder had a problem.
"I can't even do that," Conte said.
Ethier said there was loose skin caught underneath his kneecap causing pain that needed to be cleaned up. He has had three injections of joint replacement fluid to help alleviate discomfort but said he expected to put off surgery until after the season.
"I'm going to keep going," said Ethier, who is hitting .286 overall with 10 homers and 51 RBIs for a team that is 12 games back in the National League West, before Sunday's game. "There's no reason for me to stop right now."
Ethier said his biggest concern was getting himself healthy for 2012, and added that he still wanted to be a Dodger. But he said it was tough to consider taking himself out of the lineup because he felt he could still play.
"Obviously, I feel like it's been an obstacle for me mechanics-wise and the way I approached my swing," Ethier said of his knee. "But if you can still go out there and swing the bat, how do you say, 'I just want to stop because maybe it's best for my mechanics?' I don't know. It's kind of a fine line."
Mattingly said he checked in with Ethier almost daily to assess his knee, an ongoing issue that first bothered the outfielder two years ago and has gotten progressively worse the last few months. When Mattingly told Ethier he was going to give him a day off in a recent series against Houston, Mattingly said, the outfielder came into his office and told him he wanted to play.
Mattingly said playing Ethier with a balky knee could be problematic.
"You put him out there and he blows a hammy or hurts something else," Mattingly said, "now we're kind of boxed into having a lot of trouble using him."
Questions about Ethier's injury touched a nerve in the Dodgers' clubhouse, where pitcher Ted Lilly went around before the game pointing at players seated in front of their lockers.
"Don't play if you're not 100%," Lilly said, triggering smiles from his teammates. "If you're not 100%, sit down."
A few minutes later, the Rick Ross lyrics "push it to the limit" blasted through clubhouse speakers.
Center fielder Matt Kemp said it was impossible for him to assess whether Ethier should be playing because he couldn't judge the extent of his injury.
"I know he's a little banged up," Kemp said. "His knee hurts, I think his toe was hurting him too. That can affect somebody's swing, but if you're going to play, you just have to tough it up and get through it."
Times blogger Steve Dilbeck contributed to this report.