There was a growing concern that the Dodgers would be without both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier as they open up the NLDS against the Braves on Thursday. However, they got a bit of good news after Tuesday’s team workout.
Ethier is expected to be on roster but will pinch hit in beginning. They hope he’ll be able to play OF later in playoffs
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) October 2, 2013
The above report from CBS’s Jon Heyman coincides with some positive comments from manager Don Mattingly concerning the availability of Ethier, who is coming off a severe left ankle injury, for the NLDS roster. It’s clear that he won’t be playing the field, but the presence of the left-handed hitting outfielder is significant as a pinch-hitter in high-leverage spots.
For the season, the 31-year-old outfielder has a .272/.360/.423 slash line with 12 home runs in 553 plate appearances, and that represents a pretty significant decline from previous seasons. However, Ethier consistently has battered right-handed pitching throughout his career, with a .906 OPS over 2,851 PA’s compared to a .644 OPS over 1,271 PA’s against left-handers.
In short, he will be an extremely valuable piece off the bench for LA against right-handed pitching, and that kind of asset can swing an entire series, especially in a 5-game format. As the Dodgers attempt to proceed in the playoffs, he could become more available to run and/or play the field, but for now, he’s a highly-compensated specialist.