SAN DIEGO -- Another season is almost in the books and the Dodgers are once again mystified by outfielder Andre Ethier's inability to hit left-handed pitching anywhere near as successfully as he does against right-handers.
He did it in Spring Training. He did it early in the season. So, maybe it was a strained oblique muscle or a hand blister, but he's not doing it now. On the season, he's hitting .329 against right-handed pitching but .215 against lefties. The career comparison is .311 to .236.
Mattingly speculated that there is a flaw in Ethier's approach against left-handed pitching, that he tries to hit lefties with the same power swing he uses against right-handers.
"Watch his at-bat plan and it doesn't change too much," Mattingly said. "At the end of the day, it comes back to the guy has to -- and not just 'Dre but anybody -- has to have a plan. I'm sure he does. He's a smart hitter who understands his swing. I have trouble understanding it. His swing is so short, he should be able to hit them. Maybe he doesn't see them. It could be that. I know the numbers -- there's a huge differential.
"It's something we seriously have to look at as far as how we approach it. I think he can hit left-handers. The numbers say maybe he can't and we have to go a different route. Me believing a guy can do something and him doing it are two different things."
Billingsley set to ramp up throwing to test elbow
SAN DIEGO -- After a week of playing catch, Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley will soon pick up the pace in testing his injured right elbow, manager Don Mattingly said.
Billingsley has a partially torn ligament and is trying to avoid Tommy John surgery by receiving a pair of platelet-rich plasma injections.
He has played light-toss catch for a week and now will ramp up to see if the ligament can withstand the rigors of pitching. If not, he will probably undergo surgery that will sideline him for the entire 2013 season.
"He'll have to let it go," Mattingly said.
In other medical news, Mark Ellis said he felt much better after missing Wednesday's game with the flu, but Mattingly decided to give him another day off and start in his place Nick Punto, who had three hits and scored four runs Wednesday.
Ely, Pederson named LA's top Minor Leaguers
SAN DIEGO -- Ideally, you win an award for superior Minor League achievement, then make a name for yourself in the Major Leagues.
John Ely did it backward.
On Thursday, he was named the Dodgers' Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Outfielder Joc Pederson, ranked No. 4 among the Dodgers' top prospects, was named the Player of the Year.
Ely's selection comes in a rebound year for the right-hander, who was the Pacific Coast League's Pitcher of the Year after going 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA at Triple-A Albuquerque. The ERA is remarkable considering the altitude of Albuquerque, but the 14 wins mean he was left there until a September callup.
Ely, now 26, was something of a sensation during his first trip to the Major Leagues in 2010, going 3-1 in his first five starts as a rotation fill-in. Then he struggled, was sent down and made only three cameo callups in 2011.
He came off the roster and wasn't invited to Major League training camp this year, but used that as motivation to get his game together and return, which he has.
"The way I see it, as long as I was in the Minor Leagues all year, I might as well make the best of it, and I'd say this [award] is making the best of it," he said. "Obviously my goal was to be here and have a season good enough to get back."
Dodgers' logjam on left side is topic 'for the winter'
SAN DIEGO -- The inevitable offseason debate for the Dodgers revolving around three contenders for two positions on the left side of the infield arose Thursday, and manager Don Mattingly clearly wasn't comfortable with it.
"I don't think that's a discussion for right now. It's for the winter," Mattingly said when asked if Hanley Ramirez had shown enough as a shortstop to remain there next year or move to third base.
Third base is where Luis Cruz has suddenly planted himself, although he has the ability to swap spots and play short. Then there's Dee Gordon, once the incumbent, who lost his job while rehabbing from thumb surgery when Ramirez was acquired.
Ramirez has played a decent shortstop, but clearly his game is offense.
"Do I think Hanley is capable of playing shortstop good enough? Yes," Mattingly said. "It doesn't matter if he's shown it yet. Capable? Yes. But I don't want to get into Hanley at shortstop. Right now it doesn't matter. He's playing short until the end of the season."
Ramirez is a former All-Star shortstop who moved to third base this year when the Marlins signed shortstop Jose Reyes. Ramirez also is a former batting champ, although the plate approach since he arrived has been more of a home run hitter.
"For me, that's something to continue to address," Mattingly conceded. "He would have a lot more production if he thinks small than if he thinks big. He would drive in more runs, score more runs, steal more bases. To me, he has better ability than what we're seeing. In my mind, I'd rather see the approach of a guy trying to hit .330. He shows that at times, and not at times."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.