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Dodgers' Andre Ethier shows much more maturity

Despite struggling with the bat, the outfielder is keeping a calm demeanor in camp.

March 19, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier was batting only .219 through Monday, but appeared to take the games for what they were -- exhibition.
Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier was batting only .219 through Monday,… (Jake Roth / US Presswire )

Reporting from Phoenix — The evidence of Andre Ethier's increased maturity isn't in what he has done, but what he hasn't.

He hasn't slammed his helmet. He hasn't assaulted the bat rack.

This might be only spring training, but that never stopped the Dodgers outfielder in the past.

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The kid who never felt his place was secure has become comfortable enough to hire a mariachi band to perform for teammates during batting practice and laugh about the help he has received from team psychologist Dana Sinclair.

"They pay a good doctor to help me alleviate my head stresses," Ethier said, smiling.

For the last two seasons, Ethier has talked about exercising greater restraint in response to failure. That became a greater priority over the winter when Manager Don Mattingly talked to him about being a leader who projects the kind of confidence that makes his teammates feel as if they can lean on him.

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Mattingly said he likes what Ethier has shown him.

"He's been doing what we asked," Mattingly said. "Dre's not a guy that's going to be calm. He's going to get frustrated. We just ask him not to disconnect from us when that happens."

Ethier was batting only .219 through Monday but appeared to take the games for what they were — exhibitions. He has four hits in his last 11 at-bats, raising his average to .256.

Even when not hitting well, he interjected some fun into camp.

Whenever the Dodgers have visited his hometown of Phoenix, Ethier has brought his teammates burritos from a Mexican restaurant.

"I thought, 'What would spice it up a little bit more?' " Ethier said.

So he hired a mariachi band, which serenaded the team on the practice fields earlier this month.

"Just to break up the first two and half, three weeks," he said.

Kuroda is grateful

Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda said he didn't know whether fans at Camelback Ranch would turn out for the Dodgers' fundraiser for tsunami and earthquake relief efforts in his home country of Japan.

Well, they did, and in great numbers.

"Even for me, there are things that happen in Japan that I have trouble comprehending if I'm not there to experience it firsthand," Kuroda said. "I thought people in the United States might feel even more detached from the situation, but it made me really happy to learn how much they have the people of Japan in their thoughts."

On the third base side of the ballpark, fans formed multiple lines down the aisles that ran from the first row of the seats to the concourse.

At the front of the lines were players signing autographs in exchange for donations.

Ethier signed baseballs for one line. Rafael Furcal posed for pictures in another.

Kuroda signed autographs after pitching the first 52/3 innings of the Dodgers' 10-inning, 6-6 tie with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Days earlier, Kuroda stood in front of his teammates in the clubhouse, told them he was making a $50,000 donation and asked them to help if the Dodgers were to hold any charity events.

"Some players came and asked how they could donate money," Kuroda said. "I really don't like to speak in front of others, so it meant a lot to me that some players offered to help."

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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