Dodgers’ Andre Ethier gets his feet wet at first base, barely.

Andre Ethier

(John McCoy/Staff photographer)

The funniest thing about Andre Ethier playing first base on Sunday might be this: He made it look easier than Adrian Gonzalez.

To be fair to Gonzalez, who played the first six innings at first base Sunday before Ethier took over, he made a fantastic over-the-shoulder running catch of a Jean Segura pop-up in the sixth inning. The ball probably would have landed fair; at least it would have been close.

But Ethier didn’t flub any of the five balls thrown his way, which is more than Gonzalez could say. Gonzalez’s error in the second inning — dropping a catchable throw from second baseman Dee Gordon at close range — allowed the Brewers to score three unearned runs against Dan Haren in the Dodgers’ 7-2 loss.
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Andre Ethier takes ground balls at first base.

MILWAUKEE — The Dodgers’ team plane touched down in Milwaukee around 6:30 a.m. this morning. As a result, players did not hit on the field at Miller Park or go through the usual pregame routine fielding drills.

The only players on the field were middle infielders Miguel Rojas, Dee Gordon, Justin Turner and a new first baseman — Andre Ethier.

With Dodgers manager Don Mattingly watching, Ethier fielded ground balls and took throws at first base for about 15 minutes. Click here to see the video.

Ethier has played one inning at first base in his career, during a fairly meaningless August 2010 game against the San Diego Padres. Lately, it’s been hard for Ethier to get on the field in any capacity. He’s seen time at all three outfield positions in August, but since Yasiel Puig took over as the Dodgers’ starting center fielder, Ethier has only 13 plate appearances. The lack of regular at-bats hasn’t helped Ethier to get his lost season untracked; his 2-for-4 game Wednesday in Anaheim gave Ethier his first hits since July 22.

So it’s not hard to see why Mattingly would try to get Ethier comfortable at a fourth position. Even if Adrian Gonzalez is entrenched as the starter and Scott Van Slyke is the primary backup.

Don Mattingly would consider moving Yasiel Puig to center field, keeping Matt Kemp in right.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig has played 10 games in center field, all last season. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff photographer)

PITTSBURGH >> It was just a thought in the middle of a July game, but it’s one that could have lasting consequences for the Dodgers.

Manager Don Mattingly said that Matt Kemp looked so comfortable playing right field Monday that he entertained the thought of keeping Kemp there and moving Puig to center field.

“It made me think about it,” Mattingly said. “Just how comfortable Matt looked, it changes the combination of guys. So again, you’re always trying to put the best club out there, give yourself the best chance to win. It just popped into my head during the game last night.”
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With Yasiel Puig injured, Matt Kemp makes his first start in right field since 2009.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp will make his first start in right field today since October 2009. (Associated Press photo)

PITTSBURGH >> Matt Kemp will make his 132nd career start in right field today. That’s quite a few starts, longer than many careers. By some advanced measures (namely, BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average), right field is Kemp’s best defensive position.

But his last start there was October 3, 2009. Kemp’s preparation for his latest position shift consists of shagging fly balls prior to today’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Without explicitly saying he had lowered expectations for Kemp in the field, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly lowered the expectations for Kemp in the field Monday.

“We really do make a big deal out of this and you know what? We don’t ask him to be perfect. We ask him to do his best,” Mattingly said. “If it’s not perfect, it’s not necessarily his fault.”
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Hanley Ramirez, Andre Ethier rest with injuries.

Scott Van Slyke is in center field and Miguel Rojas is starting at shortstop against rookie right-hander Jesse Hahn when the Dodgers host the San Diego Padres tonight at Dodger Stadium.

Though manager Don Mattingly isn’t exactly hoping this becomes a trend, it might be too late. Van Slyke has started three of the last five games in center field over Andre Ethier, and four of the last eight. Typically the starter against a left-handed opponent, Van Slyke is starting for the second straight night against a righty.

“In general Dre just seems like he doesn’t have the same energy. He hasn’t felt good body-wise,” Mattingly said. “There’s lots of little things. One thing usually is the building block to another and to compensate, you’ve got another issue. It’s really just trying to get that stuff kind of resolved.”

As for shortstop Hanley Ramirez, he’s started only one of the last five games at shortstop because of inflammation in the A/C joint in his right shoulder. He’s only played one complete game at shortstop since June 16 — he was the Dodgers’ designated hitter once in Kansas City and twice in Detroit in the meantime.

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About that Don Mattingly/Andre Ethier fight in the dugout Saturday.

Andre Ethier and Don Mattingly were arguing in the Dodgers’ dugout about something in the eighth inning of the Dodgers’ 12-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Saturday. Neither was forthcoming after the game about the incident. Ethier told reporters that the incident was “misinterpreted.”

Mattingly was more forthcoming about the incident Sunday, saying that Ethier didn’t want to come out of the game in the ninth inning. The manager won the argument in that sense.

Sunday, Mattingly said the two apologized to each other, first he to Ethier then Ethier to him.

“We’re good,” Mattingly said. “I think the greatest thing when you have guys like Andre, he can voice his opinion, I can voice mine, and the next day we’re adults.

“At the end of the day, we’re family.”

Matt Kemp and Don Mattingly are still at odds over the outfielder’s health.

Matt Kemp

Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who hasn’t started since May 22, insists that he’s healthy. (Getty Images)


Matt Kemp, who hasn’t started since Thursday and isn’t starting today, insists he’s healthy.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn’t so sure.

Therein lies the basis for a closed-door meeting Saturday between the two that didn’t thrill Kemp. Who would be thrilled to learn they’re being benched?

Asked Monday if the meeting was helpful or productive, Kemp said, “yeah, any meeting can be productive. He told me what he planned on doing. It is what it is.”

So what is the plan?
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Daily Distractions: Fans’ outrage toward Dodgers, Time Warner now includes an online petition.

Vin Scully
A fan petition calling on the Dodgers and Time Warner cable to “broker a deal” with local cable providers and “stop the defacto blackout” of the club on local television has 491 signatures on the website FansRising.com.

The campaign is planning additional action to raise attention to the issue, according to a press release from Fans Rising. Comments left by fans reveal that multiple petition signers are elderly fans no longer able to attend games who can’t watch on television.

“I saw my first Dodger game at Ebbets Field in 1938 and have been a faithful fan ever since,” wrote Doris Schalk. “I am now 84 and unable to drive, so don’t get to many games anymore, but being able to watch them all these years has been a god-send. The radio guys are very good – BUT I miss my Vin AND my Dodgers.”

Some bullet points for a Hump Day:
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Andre Ethier is the designated hitter in Dodgers’ first road interleague game of the season.

Andre Ethier is the Dodgers’ designated hitter for tonight’s scheduled game against the Minnesota Twins. It’s the first game in which the Dodgers can use a designated hitter, since last night’s game against the Twins was postponed until tomorrow.

It also offers a brief respite from the team’s so-called “four outfielder problem.” Carl Crawford is in left field, Matt Kemp is in center and Yasiel Puig is in right field against Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson.

Drew Butera is the Dodgers’ catcher. Tim Federowicz was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque and Miguel Olivo was recalled earlier today.

The weather forecast for Minneapolis is decidedly miserable — temperatures in the low 40s, clouds overhead — but not impossible for a baseball game.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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