Ethier A Contented Dodger Now

VERO BEACH, Fla.- Andre Ethier was in Barnes & Noble when his cell phone rang. After the conversation, he was in a state of shock. It was David Forst, the assistant general manager of the Oakland A's who was calling and Andre expected a conversation about the team's plans for him which he thought would be considerable.

Why not? He'd been the Texas League Player of the Year and had followed that with some solid play in the Arizona Fall League (He led the league in on-base percentage). Instead, Forst told him he'd been traded to the Dodgers for Milton Bradley.

Traded! "I was stunned, "Ethier admits. "I just didn't expect this. Everything I had planned on was changed. It took awhile to get adjusted. "

It's not that Ethier had grown up cheering for the A's - or any other major league team, for that matter. He's a lifelong resident of Phoenix, which meant, "Growing up you really didn't have any pro teams to follow. Oh, there were the Suns but the Cardinals and the Diamondbacks didn't come until later."

No, it was Arizona State's teams that he followed with a passion. "I lived near the campus and went to all their games in every sport. That's what I wanted to be- a Sun Devil."

And that's what he became, an outfielder of such excellence for ASU's fine baseball program that he was a second-round selection of the A's in the 2003 draft. He had just been promoted to their 40-man roster and now this. Which, when he thought it over, wasn't really bad at all.

"When I looked at it, I saw what the Dodger situation was and that it may be a good thing for me. Plus the fact that they're a great organization so I think it really all worked out."

The situation is that the L.A. outfield has more than its share of question marks with the health of Jayson Werth and J. D. Drew in doubt plus the age of Kenny Lofton (he'll be 39 in May) so there's opportunity there. And the Dodgers feel strongly that Ethier has the ability to move in fairly soon and contribute.

Why not? He's always been a hitter of note who punches the ball to all fields. Although the power was lacking early on, he seems to be able to provide that, too, having bopped 18 homers for Midland last year. Another important item that he 's made considerable progress on is his attitude.

Once he had a reputation as a hot-head but that's all changed. "I want to be a team player so I try to do the things that help us win. That's the important thing." It paid off in his receiving the Sportsman's Award in the Fall League.

It's also there that he got his first feel for the Dodgers because he was assigned to the Scottsdale Scorpions which also had its Dodger contingent, guys like Andy LaRoche, James Loney, and Matt Kemp among others. And that team won a championship.

"The fact that I played with some guys before coming here means I'm not exactly a stranger," says Andre.

His play this spring will determine where he'll begin the season. He's tentatively slated to go to Las Vegas at the beginning with an arrival in L.A. some time during the year. But a big showing in camp plus that injury factor might see him in Dodger Stadium sooner than that.

In any case, the feeling is that he'll be a Dodger in the near future and quite possibly for some time to come. And now that he's settled, Andre knows that's a pretty good thing. Maybe almost as good as being a Sun Devil.