Relaxed approach key for Andre Ethier
Scout says Dodgers outfielder seems to be a different player during his hitting streak
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier's 25-game hitting streak, the longest in the history of baseball in the month of April and six short of a franchise record, might not be as simple as luck or happenstance.
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According to one veteran National League scout, Ethier looks like a different player this year than he has in the past.
"The bottom line is, he looks more relaxed to me," said the scout, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "It's the old Ted Williams line, 'The key to hitting is eliminating tension from your swing.' [Ethier] always beat himself up. He would hit a hard, line-drive out, and he was [angry]. All that does is add tension, tension, tension, tension."
Ethier entered Saturday night's game against the San Diego Padres having hit safely in all but one of the Dodgers' 27 games this season, leaving him with an average of .375 and a .444 on-base percentage. During the streak -- which was tied with those of Paul Lo Duca, Willie Davis and Steve Sax for the second-longest since the Dodgers moved to town from Brooklyn in 1958 -- Ethier was hitting .396.
He also appears to have made some physical adjustments to go along with his mental ones.
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"It looks to me like he is taking his bat to different zones a little better," the scout said. "He used to have a little groove to his swing path. That might have been because he was trying to hit home runs. They would throw a ball into that zone [between the belt and the thigh over the inner half of the plate], and bam, there it would be, to right-center field."
The scout cited Ethier's only hit Friday night against the Padres, a two-out double into the right-field corner off Clayton Richard in the fifth inning, as a perfect example of Ethier's more flexible swing and improved coverage of the strike zone.
"That lefty threw one down and in, and it's a double," the scout said. "He took his bat and kind of inside-outed that ball even though he pulled it."
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.