LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers didn’t make a decision Tuesday about Andre Ethier’s availability for the playoffs, and they probably won’t until Thursday morning, when they must submit their 25-man roster to the National League office.
But it appears likely that Ethier will make the team as a pinch-hitter – and perhaps even as a center fielder if his aching left ankle improves enough to let him run the bases.
At the moment, it’s a waiting game, but the Dodgers are beginning to feel that a hobbled Ethier is better than no Ethier at all — especially with Matt Kemp lost for the postseason.
By putting Ethier on their roster, the Dodgers will be crossing their collective fingers that he can give them a bat off the bench and perhaps even play by the time they return home for Sunday’s Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.
“I want to be out there playing,” Ethier said after a team workout Tuesday morning at Dodger Stadium. “Obviously, if it’s a pinch-hit role and they need me, I want to do it. I want to help this team any way I can, but I also want to be out there manning center field and contribute the way I did the whole year.”
That’s probably not going to happen, at least not in the NL Division Series that starts Thursday night in Atlanta. Ethier threw in the outfield and took his turn during batting practice Tuesday, but he didn’t run and probably won’t try it until Wednesday at the soonest.
Until then, the Dodgers will have to wait and hope.
“Can he just be a pinch-hitter? If he can do that, we’ll make a determination,” manager Don Mattingly said. “And can he be a pinch-hitter and will we have to run for him? Can he be a pinch-hitter and run at 40 percent? Can he be a pinch-hitter and run for himself? Can he play? Everything he can do helps us make a decision.”
Skip Schumaker, who started the final three games of the 2011 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, would probably start in center field, although Mattingly said he would also consider rookie Yasiel Puig, with Scott Van Slyke in right.
But Schumaker’s career postseason experience — 22 games and a .278 average — gives him an edge.
“I’ve started postseason games,” Schumaker said. “I don’t think that’s a problem. But we’re a better team with Andre and Matt Kemp out there. I haven’t been told anything, but I’ll be ready if given the chance.”
If Ethier makes the roster, it’s also possible that speedy Dee Gordon will, too. Ethier’s inability to run the bases makes a pinch-runner a necessity, and Gordon’s speed would be helpful in a close game.
It’s one more thing for Mattingly to ponder.
“One’s related to the next, not just Andre and Dee,” Mattingly said. “Dee’s a value in himself for the things he can do. We plan on playing close games and that one run can be a difference.”
But the Dodgers won’t know for sure until they land in Atlanta and get a chance to work out Wednesday. At this point, however, it appears Ethier will be suited up and ready to hit, although not run.
“I don’t want to come in and say I’m good to go and it hurts the team, especially in a series where every at-bat, every pitch, is magnified that much more,” Ethier said. “I don’t want to be in a situation where it’s detrimental to what we want to accomplish. I feel I can contribute hitting-wise, but we’ve got to figure out if that’s what we want.”