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Dodgers manager Joe Torre calls struggling Andre Ethier in for a pregame chat

July 25, 2010 |  1:12 pm

When a player -- veteran or rookie -- is struggling, a manager does what he can.

Andre Ethier is no rookie. Through the first six weeks of the season, what he was was the best hitter in the game.

Then came a broken pinkie and, after he returned, a prolonged struggle to regain his form.

Ethier appeared back on track before the All-Star break. But he is a mess once again. In a serious, this-can’t-be-the-same-guy slump.

Ethier has one hit in his last 29 at-bats. He has none in his last 13.

And being an intense, emotional player, he’s not been easy on himself about it.

He’s been so frustrated, he’s started taking himself out of some at-bats. So frustrated that, before Sunday’s game, manager Joe Torre held a closed-door meeting with his right fielder in attempt to get him mentally back on track.

"We chatted today," Torre said. "Even though I had a closed-door meeting, it doesn’t mean it was anything super secret. He just fights himself so much that sometimes he forgets where he is.

"My job is just to clear out all the unnecessary stuff in there. He fights himself to he point where he gets himself out a lot of times. Like, say the umpire check swings, from 3-1 to 3-2, that doesn’t change the fact that we need to win the ballgame.

"Stuff like that. But he’s such a good kid. He just puts all this stuff on himself. I had Paul O’Neill. There are lot of similarities."

Either has spoken about his effort to keep his emotions under control, but this deep slump is testing him in unwanted ways, sometimes with unwanted results. The bat rack can be an unsafe location after a poor Ethier  at-bat.

Torre doesn’t want Ethier to play without fire, just to direct it.

"I don’t want him to lose his passion for the game," he said. "I want him to channel it."

Even during his slump, Ethier has hit several balls hard. Right now, the focus is less on his swing than on his approach. With Manny Ramirez on the disabled list, often Ethier is pitched to very carefully.

"He just doesn’t look like he’s up there with a plan, looking for a pitch," Torre said. "I’ve probably talked about it too much -- they’re pitching around him.

"You can’t go up there with that attitude, and then all of a sudden they throw you a ball down the middle and you take it. You have to go up there with a plan and make sure you stay with the plan. And don’t let the fact they do try to go around you, don’t go out there with them. Just take the walk."

-- Steve Dilbeck