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.