Andre Ethier has been extremely curt or extremely engaging, and rarely… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Phoenix — Juan Uribe reported to spring training with a firmer-looking upper body and an oversized smile. He exchanged loud greetings and embraces with his teammates, then spoke about everything from the work he did to avoid a repeat of his disastrous first season with the Dodgers and to how he could miss the first few days of full-squad workouts because he is a defendant in an upcoming civil trial.
Andre Ethier also showed up at the Dodgers complex Saturday.
But Ethier wasn't smiling. His face was expressionless. He didn't say much. Whatever he said, he said quickly.
"I'm just giving you honest-truth answers," he said. "I'm not your buddy, you're not my buddy. We're not going to sit here and have a bar-top conversation."
This wasn't out of character. In his time with the Dodgers, he has been extremely curt or extremely engaging, and rarely anything in between. Last spring, he wore a friendly facade and declared his intention of becoming a team leader. The year before that, he was even less talkative than he was Saturday.
"It's just the way I want to approach the game," Ethier said. "Day to day, that's all it is. What can I do to get better today or make it better for tomorrow? That's all that my sights are set on. Head down, focus on the task. The task on hand is what today brings. It's as clear and simple as I can put it. I'm not going to look up, I'm not going to look ahead, I'm not going to look at the light at the end of the tunnel."
Ethier was particularly impatient with questions regarding his increasingly uncertain future.
The two-time All-Star outfielder tied a career low with11 home runs last season, which ended three weeks prematurely because of a knee operation. Even though he will be a free agent at the end of this season, the Dodgers signed him to only a one-year contract in the off-season. But they signed Matt Kemp to an eight-year, $160-million deal and made a nine-figure offer to free agent Prince Fielder.
"I can't tell you anything about any of that," he said. "All I know is what's going to happen right now in front of me. I can't change anything from the past, I can't change anything that's going to happen in the future. I can change it by the way I play, but I can't do anything else. Today is today, that's all I can handle."
Ethier wouldn't say whether he would be open to negotiating a contract extension during the season with a new ownership group should the Dodgers be sold.
"It's not my decision to make," he said.
But Ethier's agent, Nez Balelo, said his client would entertain such discussions.
"If new ownership approaches us, we have interest in exploring an extension," Balelo said. "He's always expressed his interest in staying in Los Angeles. That hasn't changed."
General Manager Ned Colletti said he was also open to the idea.
"He's been an important part of our club who sits in an important part of the lineup, so we're open-minded to see what we can do," Colletti said.
As reluctant as Ethier was to talk about his contractual status, he was even less inclined to share his thoughts on other subjects, including his surgically repaired knee. Ethier blamed the knee for his loss in power last season.
Manager Don Mattingly said earlier in the week that he has received only positive reports on the knee, but Ethier declined to offer any details.
Asked whether there were signs of his power returning, he said, "I hit some good balls off the tee today, but I didn't hit them the way I wanted it."
That was a yes-or-no question, he was told.
"I felt good today," he said. "Yes. I felt good today."
He wasn't any more revealing on other subjects.
"We're not here to talk about that," he said of his off-season.
"I haven't had a chance to evaluate anything," he said of the Dodgers roster.
"I don't know what happened," he said when asked about Mattingly's assertion that his temper resulted in 100 wasted at-bats.
Told that fans probably wanted to hear more from him, Ethier replied: "I'm here today to prepare hard, play to win and help the team win and that's my ultimate goal. You'll hear from the training staff if I'm not ready to go."