Dodgers undecided on Ethier's role

BY foxsports • October 1, 2013

Andre Ethier may be limited to pinch-hitting duties in the National League division series because of a left ankle injury, leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers undecided on whether to include the outfielder on the playoff roster.

Ethier threw and hit but didn't run during Tuesday's workout at Dodger Stadium before the team departed for Atlanta, where they will face the Braves in Game 1 on Thursday.

He hasn't played in the field since Sept. 13 because of an issue similar to shin splints. Ethier said he feels great when he wakes up but as he begins moving around he experiences pain a few inches above his ankle bone.

''We're just trying to figure out a way for me to contribute anyway I can this first series,'' he said. ''We're hoping it's a hitting role right now.''

Ethier was 1 for 8 as a pinch hitter this season, hitting a tying, two-run homer in the ninth inning against the Mets on Aug. 14.

''I can hit and throw,'' he said. ''Not sure I can hit the way I want to.''

The Dodgers are already down one outfielder for the postseason. Matt Kemp is out with complications from a sprained left ankle that has him wearing a boot and on crutches for the next month.

Manager Don Mattingly said the team will wait as long as possible to see whether Ethier is healthy enough to run the bases or play the outfield. They could find out at Wednesday's workout in Atlanta.

''What are we willing to accept and are we willing to set our roster accordingly?'' Mattingly said.

If Ethier isn't ready, Skip Schumaker would likely replace him, having made 17 starts in center field this season.

''I haven't been told anything yet and Ethier looked pretty good today,'' Schumaker said.

Injuries plagued the Dodgers the first few months of the season, when they fell 9 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona before getting healthy and rallying to win the NL West with a torrid stretch in July and August. Ethier was playing during that spurt while Kemp was hurt.

Injuries have caught up with them again, though.

Besides Kemp and Ethier, starters Yasiel Puig (bruised left shin) and Hanley Ramirez (back) have nagging concerns. Bench players Jerry Hairston Jr. (back) and Nick Punto (toe) missed games last week, too.

''Everything is just fluid as far as how are you going to use your guys,'' Mattingly said.

The pitching staff is intact, with Clayton Kershaw set to start on Thursday followed by Zack Greinke on Friday in the Dodgers' return to the postseason for the first time in four years.

''They got weapons for all different kinds of hitters,'' Mattingly said.

The Dodgers went 2-5 against the Braves, including a three-game sweep in Atlanta in May, when the bullpen gave up leads in each game. Both series were played before the Dodgers' tear began in late June, not long after Puig was called up from the minors in a move that sparked the spurt.

The Cuban defector hit .319 with 42 RBIs and 19 homers in 104 games, although he tailed off in September.

''The last couple weeks of the season wasn't as I had hoped, but I hope I can go back to the player I can be,'' he said through a translator.

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