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Don Mattingly expects no problems with Andre Ethier

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Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier showed up early to Dodgers camp on Monday, two days before the required reporting date for position players at Camelback Ranch.

Ethier will be part of a competition for a starting spot in the outfield with rookie Joc Pederson, and manager Don Mattingly said he and president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman will at some point soon have a conversation with Ethier regarding his role.

Mattingly said that no matter the role, he doesn't expect Ethier to rock the boat.

"I never expect Andre to be a problem. He's always been a professional. I think you have a understanding when a guy isn't happy, not playing as much as he wanted to last year. I understand that. He was a pro about it," Mattingly said. "We didn't have a problem last year, I don't think we'll have a problem this year. If there is, we'll just talk about it and deal with it."

Ethier, with three years and $56 million guaranteed remaining on his contract, expressed a desire in the offseason to be a starter again, after mostly riding the pine for the final two months. Ethier, who turns 33 in April, started only 10 of the final 60 games of the season, and ended his 2014 with career lows in plate appearances (380), hits (85), doubles (17), runs scored (29), home runs (four), RBI (42), walks (31), batting average (.249), on-base percentage (.322), slugging percentage (.370), OPS (.691), OPS+ (97), wOBA (.307) and wRC+ (98).

Ethier, who debuted in May 2006, has been with the Dodgers major league team longer than anyone. The only players who have been in the organization longer than Ethier are A.J. Ellis (drafted in 2003) and Scott Van Slyke (drafted in 2005).

The trade of Matt Kemp created long-term openings in right field for Yasiel Puig, his best position, and in center field for Pederson, one of the top prospects in baseball and the best defensive outfielder among potential regulars on the team. But Pederson, 23 in April, has to win the job first.

"Nobody's handing Joc the keys to the car. We just want to see him go play, see him get ready to play, just watch the preparation," Mattingly said on Sunday. "The main thing is we don't want to see Joc go out and be something he's not. Just be yourself. We know what he can do, and let us judge."

But even if Pederson does win the starting center field job, Carl Crawford hasn't exactly been a picture of health in his two years with the Dodgers, averaging 111 games and 389 plate appearances and 35 games missed on the disabled list per season. Ethier at the very least provides depth and insurance in the outfield just in case.

Still, Mattingly said it's too early for assumptions.

"I don't think we need to box him in right now. We'll let Andre come to camp, see what he looks like, see how he swings the bat, see where he fits," Mattingly said Monday. "We don't know if he'll end up on the bench, if he'll play every day. We don't know what's going to happen in a six-week camp with injuries. There's no reason to put a label on him."