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Dodgers' Andre Ethier is trying a new approach against left-handers

Left-handed outfielder is working with hitting coach Mark McGwire on having a plan at the plate against left-handed pitchers instead of focusing only on mechanics.

February 26, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Andre Ethier is a career .238 hitter against left-handed pitchers, under the guidance of new hitting coach Mark McGwire, the outfielder is trying to improve that mark with a new game plan at the plate.
Andre Ethier is a career .238 hitter against left-handed pitchers, under… (Rob Tringali / Getty Images )

PHOENIX — Like countless hitting coaches before him, Mark McGwire thinks Andre Ethier can hit left-handed pitching.

"You know what, I'm telling you right now, it's not as bad as you guys think it is," McGwire said.

It has been said before.

But McGwire is offering the left-handed-hitting Ethier a new method to remedy his Achilles' heel. McGwire wants Ethier to focus on his mental approach rather than his swing mechanics.

"Obviously, the mechanics are there so it's just the mental side and focusing on that," Ethier said.

Ethier is a career .238 hitter against left-handers. He batted .222 against them last season, compared to .325 against right-handers.

Ethier's struggles against left-handers last season prompted Manager Don Mattingly to hint that Ethier could eventually be reduced to a platoon role. But that isn't an option now, as the Dodgers will have to use whatever depth they have in the outfield as cover for Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford, who are recovering from major operations.

McGwire doesn't think Ethier is far from being effective against left-handers, pointing to how he hit .351 against them as a rookie in 2006 and a respectable .279 the next season.

Ethier also senses that he's close.

"It's being selective," Ethier said. "Wait for that certain zone, that certain pitch to hit. … If the pitch is not in that zone, even if it's a strike, let's take it. Let's just wait for that one pitch."

To help improve his pitch recognition, Ethier has a machine throw him left-handed curveballs in the batting cages every morning.

McGwire wants Ethier to study opposing pitchers instead of his own swing.

"You can look at yourself all you want, but you can also start making things up," McGwire said. "What it comes down to is, if you're swinging at balls your mechanics are going to be off. If you narrow that down, get the ball you want to hit, everything's going to fall into place correctly."

Ethier sounded as if he had accepted the idea.

"It's doing the scouting report, knowing what you're going to face that day and go off that," he said. "They obviously see what your strengths and weaknesses are. I've got to do my homework the same way."

In it to win it

Mexico was eliminated in the second round of the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.

As Mexico's captain this year, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is calling for his team to expect more.

"We're going with the intention to win," Gonzalez said. "I told them there's no point in going if we're not trying to win it for our country. I could easily stay here and get ready for the season."

Team Mexico's attitude in the past was more laid back, Gonzalez said.

"There was a lot of, 'Let's do our best. Whatever happens happens. We're cool. Let's have a good time,' " Gonzalez said. " 'We're here to win,' was never really in our thoughts. You're always trying to win. But I want to be more outspoken about the fact that, hey, we're here to win for our country. Forget about having a good time. That will happen if we win, if we win this whole thing."

Dodgers teammate Luis Cruz will play for Mexico, as will Gonzalez's brother, Edgar.

Gonzalez and Cruz will leave the Dodgers' camp and report to Team Mexico on March 3. Team Mexico will face a Dodgers split squad in an exhibition game three days later.

Mexico is in Group D with the United States, Canada and Italy. Mexico's opener is March 7 against Italy at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Phoenix. The next day, Mexico plays the U.S. at Chase Field in Phoenix.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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