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Andre Ethier's knee is feeling good

Dodgers right fielder has been driving in runs while acting as protection behind Matt Kemp.

May 12, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Andre Ethier entered Saturday night's game as the National League leader in runs batted in with 32.
Andre Ethier entered Saturday night's game as the National League… (Gus Ruelas / Associated…)

Six weeks into the season, Andre Ethier can report his surgically repaired right knee is holding up fine.

"Everything feels good," he said.

Ethier entered Saturday as the National League leader in runs batted in with 32.

While teammate Matt Kemp's home run prowess has gained national attention, Ethier has quietly driving in runs on a consistent basis.

"I know what my job is here hitting fourth — giving Matt protection," he said. "Not too many people want to pitch to him no matter what protection is behind him, but I'm just there to pick him up."

Opposing pitchers are becoming increasingly hesitant to pitch to Kemp, who went into Saturday as the National League co-leader in home runs with 12. Kemp walked once every 7.5 plate appearances last month. In the Dodgers' first nine games in May, he drew a walk every 5.3 plate appearances.

Through it all, Ethier has produced regularly.

In the 32 games the Dodgers had played through Friday, Ethier had driven in runs in 18 of them. Only three times has he gone more than a game without an RBI. His longest RBI-less streak was three games and that happened only once.

Ethier went into Saturday with seven home runs.

Manager Don Mattingly, who said Ethier wasted 100 at-bats last season because of his inability to control his emotions, praised the right fielder's mental approach.

"He's been unbelievable," Mattingly said.

Kemp: Hamstrung?

Kemp hasn't looked the same since he was scratched from the lineup at Wrigley Field on May 6 because of a tight hamstring.

Kemp was four for 15 (.267) with no home runs and no runs batted in in the five games the Dodgers played from then to Friday. He went into Saturday without a home run this month.

But Kemp said his hamstring is fine and Mattingly said he doesn't think it's the cause of his decline.

"I don't feel it has anything to do with it," Mattingly said. "Matt's no different than anyone else. You're not going to hit .430. He's going to go through periods.

"He been so good for so long, every time he struggles a little bit, it's going to be, 'Oh, he's hurt. Something's wrong.' He is human. He's going to struggle like everybody else."

Miles back in fold

Free-agent utilityman Aaron Miles signed a minor league contract and reported to the Dodgers' spring-training complex in Arizona.

Miles, 35, made the Dodgers as a non-roster player last season and played more than expected because of injuries to Juan Uribe, Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake. He played in 136 games last season, starting 110. He batted .275 with three home runs and 45 RBIs.

Miles' high asking price scared away teams over the winter, resulting in him starting the season without a job.

Miles provides the Dodgers infield depth. Third baseman Uribe is 33 and coming off an injury-plagued season in which he was limited to 77 games. Mark Ellis is 34 and utilityman Adam Kennedy is 35. Jerry Hairston Jr., who turns 36 next week, is on the disabled list with a strained hamstring.

Mattingly said he expects Miles to start his season at triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers also requested unconditional release waivers for reliever Mike MacDougal, who was recently designated for assignment.

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