Originally posted on Fox Sports Arizona  |  Last updated 3/8/12
PHOENIX -- The Dodgers didn't make any splashy moves like the Angels or Marlins this offseason, but they might just get the impact of a big-time acquisition from a healthy and focused Andre Ethier. Ethier admits he wasn't himself on the field last season, and it showed in his final stat line as he tallied his lowest RBI (62) and home run (11) numbers since 2006, his rookie year. Between a nagging knee injury and a couple issues with management, the real Ethier was mostly absent in 2011. "Physically I knew I wasn't all the way locked in, all the way where I needed to be," Ethier said. "That kind of weighed heavy on me most of the year." Said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: "He started off really well, but obviously he gets banged up and didn't swing the bat as well at the end of the year. We just need Andre to be Andre, really." That's the foremost goal for Ethier this season: To play like the player who clubbed at least 20 home runs in three consecutive years and finished sixth in MVP voting three seasons ago. After minor surgery on his right knee two weeks before the end of last season and a winter to rehab, Ethier believes he's not far off. The knee feels strong and Ethier has fully tested it in Cactus League games, but there's still some progress to be made, particularly stamina wise. He has yet to play a full game, as most players haven't, but is building to that point. "It's just repetition over and over, playing every day" Ethier said. "So we'll see how I do, but I'm more than confident that I can go out there and play a full season and contribute no matter what." Ethier's knee morphed into a point of much contention last season when he insinuated the Dodgers were pressuring him to play every day despite the injury getting worse. Mattingly took Ethier's comments as a shot at his integrity. Some theorized the remarks stemmed from Ethier's ongoing frustration at seeing teammates receive long-term contracts while his went ignored. Ethier did avoid arbitration this winter by agreeing to a 10.95 million deal with the team for 2012, but his contract runs out at the end of the season and the team's ownership situation -- a sale is expected to be done sometime in the first half of the season -- isn't particularly conducive to negotiations. For now, Ethier says there is nothing to discuss in regards to his contract, though he has expressed a desire to remain with the Dodgers. "Obviously I know the situation," Ethier said. "I understand what's going on with ownership. That being said, I don't think it's the time or place to even discuss or address it. I'm not worried about it. I'm worried about how I can help this team today. "There's a lot of days that come in between that are more important than what's going on at the end of the year." Impending free agency might serve as a motivator for a bounce-back season, but Ethier said he is most motivated to get back to full strength and help the Dodgers challenge in the NL West after a second-half surge last year helped them finish over .500 and third in the division. His teammates have liked what they've seen of Ethier at camp. "He's going to have his best year this year I think," center fielder Matt Kemp said. "He's healthy and he's ready to go. He's focused. "We need him to win. When he does his job, it makes everybody else's job much easier and we get more wins." Added first baseman James Loney: "Obviously having Andre healthy now is a real positive for us." Assuming Ethier can avoid the distractions of last season, the Dodgers should get a nice offensive boost, which can prove invaluable in the pitching-loaded NL West. "Just him being himself really is huge for us," Mattingly said. "It gives us that 1-2 punch they always talk about in the order. You put two guys together that are just dangerous and with Matt (Kemp) and him together, if they're both swinging the bat the way they're capable of, it gives you that 1-2 punch." Ethier insists the uncertainty of his contract situation will not be a distraction. "My focus this year and my mentality is that I can't worry about what happened yesterday or five minutes ago," Ethier said. " I can't worry about tomorrow either. I've got to just worry about today and staying in the moment, focused on the task at hand."
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