Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier gets the left-handed monkey off his back early.

Andre Ethier Don Mattingly

It was only one at-bat, and it was only spring training. But it was Andre Ethier’s first at-bat of spring training against a left-handed pitcher, so naturally it commanded a lot of attention.

Ethier stroked an opposite-field triple in the fourth inning Saturday against Chicago White Sox southpaw Leyson Septimo. He finished the exhibition opener 1-for-2, and after the game cautioned against making too much out of a small sample size.

“(If I) get five extra hits in the year, you guys aren’t going to talk to me about it,” Ethier said. “It’s that simple.”

A small sample size is what stoked Ethier’s fire to begin with. He was benched for one game against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard in San Diego last September. It became a fixation in the media, and Ethier’s shown little patience since then whenever he gets questioned about his batting average against lefties (it was .222 at the end of the season).

Under new hitting coach Mark McGwire, Ethier sees reason for hope.

“Just see it and react. That’s what we’ve been working on a lot in the cage,” he said. “Maybe (McGwire) isn’t as big on the mechanics — the mechanics are there, so it’s the mental side, focusing on that. The mental side will be different.

“I like it a lot. He’s been there every day bugging me to stay on top of this. Do my work … and hopefully it takes care of itself.”

So far, so good.

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.