Manager Don Mattingly for most of spring training has talked about Andre Ethier in algebraic terms, especially regarding the right fielder's swing. While not quite E = mc2, Mattingly has had a simple formula for Ethier's swing this spring:
Square = Backspin = Power.
Ethier homered on Wednesday as the Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-6 at Camelback Ranch, continuing his power-packed March. In 29 plate appearances in 11 games in Cactus League play, Ethier has six doubles, two triples, and two home runs, hitting .440/.483/1.080.
"Right now he looks like himself, and like he did a couple of years ago," Mattingly said of Ethier. "He's one of the best hitters in the league when he's going right."
Ethier is free of injuries this spring, having rested and recovered from his September knee surgery. Mechanically his swing is sound, which allows him to be square at the point of contact, creating the backspin and subsequent power that has manifested this spring.
"I'm not trying to hit the ball a certain way other than hard and squared up," said Ethier of his recent outburst. "If you have your three and four guys going, it's tough [for the pitcher] to choose his battles. Our main goal is for me and Matt [Kemp] to play off each other and help each other get better, and beyond that help the guys in front of him and behind me."
Billingsley Making Adjustments
Chad Billingsley allowed three runs in his 4 2/3 innings, throwing 86 pitches, 57 for strikes, in the process. It wasn't his sharpest outing of the spring, but Billingsley is happy with the progress he has made with his mechanical adjustments in the spring.
"My fastball, curve, and changeup have been really good. It's coming together really well. I have started working in my cutter but have been struggling with that. It has been staying flat and spinning," said Billingsley. "I'll just keep working on that, but overall everything has good life and the end and good finish on it. I'm happy with that."
Billingsley allowed a two-run home run to Brooks Conrad in the second inning that was really more of a pop fly to left field that carried out in the wind gusts that were prevalent in the early innings on Tuesday. Billingsley walked two and struck out four on the day.
"I talked with Honey [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt], who said today was one of his best bullpens," Mattingly said of Billingsley. "He had that one little stretch where he got out of sync, and A.J. [Ellis] went to talk to him and he slowed down and made seven or eight good pitches in a row. It was nice to see him make that adjustment for me. I thought he was really good."
Gordon Powers Up
Dee Gordon entered Tuesday's game with no extra-base hits this spring in 33 plate appearances, but in his first at-bat he hit a ball well over the head of center fielder Carlos Gomez for an easy triple. One inning later, Gordon hit a pop fly double and later added a single.
"I've been trying to tell you guys for about a year now that this guy can hit," Mattingly said of Gordon. "He's getting a good feel of when to take, when not to take, and when to be aggressive. He's going to keep getting better."
Gordon is hitting .313/.405/.406 this spring with more walks (four) than strikeouts (three).
"Obviously he has the speed, but the swing is there. You see a guy we feel will hit a little bit. Then you have the other side where he keeps working and wants to get better. When you put all of that together, you have a good shot," said Mattingly.
Home runs: Brooks Conrad (2)
WP - Wil Ledezma (1-0): 1 1/3 IP, 1 run, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts
LP - Marco Estrada (1-2): 2 IP, 3 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts
Sv - Angel Guzman (1): 1 IP, 1 strikeout