Andre Ethier goes from fall guy to spark plug

MIAMI -- There were any number of directions that Andre Ethier could have gone after his benching May 22 for a game in Milwaukee. It seemed to make him the scapegoat for all that had gone wrong for the Los Angeles Dodgers during a miserable first two months of the season.

Not many of those directions seemed positive. Some thought he’d be traded for whatever the Dodgers could get for him at that point. Others worried his notoriously intense temper would explode. At the very least, he might sulk a little bit.

Instead, none of those things happened. He shut up, started putting up and all of a sudden has a nice season going again. Since that benching, Ethier is hitting .279 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 78 games.

He has been especially hot of late, hitting .305 with a .495 slugging percentage since July 22. In the first three games of this series against the Miami Marlins, Ethier is 4-for-10 with two RBIs, two runs and one excellent running catch in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s 4-1 win that preserved Kenley Jansen’s 21st save of the season.

“Sometimes things don’t turn out the way you want,” Ethier said. “That was one where myself and the team weren’t performing up to the standards that were expected.

“Sometimes that gets pointed out, and it was one where you just take it, look at yourself in the mirror and figure out and get back on track.”

Wait, what?

Where’s that temper?

“There’s just so much potential for this team, I really told myself not to worry about any of the outside distractions,” Ethier said.

Three years ago, things might have been very different though, right?

“I’ll be the first one to say so,” Ethier said. “I probably would’ve pushed back.

“But I took a step back and realized what this team is capable of doing and where we were headed at the time,” he said. “It was time to get on board and figure out where to fit in.”

That has meant playing every outfield position, batting anywhere from second through ninth in the lineup, and learning to tune out trade rumors.

Those rumblings have died down now that Ethier has become the Dodgers’ most reliable center fielder while Matt Kemp is still on the shelf. And despite the looming logjam once Kemp returns, Ethier says he isn't concerned about his status on the club going forward.

“We have the pieces now. What’s the point of complaining about anything?” he said. “We’re heading in the right direction. I’m happy with that.”

The Dodgers look to take three of four games from the Marlins with Clayton Kershaw on the mound for Friday’s 9:40 a.m. PT start. Hanley Ramirez is getting the day off. Yasiel Puig is starting and batting cleanup after receiving an IV to treat dehydration following Wednesday's game.

The lineup:

Crawford LF

Punto SS

Gonzalez 1B

Puig RF

Ethier CF

AJ Ellis C

Schumaker 2B

Uribe 3B

Kershaw P