Overcoming adversity is nothing new for the Dodgers. One need look no further than game-1 of the 1988 World Series to see this when a seriously injured Kirk Gibson said to (then) clubhouse attendant Mitch Poole “You know Mitch, this could be the script” only moments before Gibson’s date with destiny. That was exactly 25 years ago and the last time that the Dodgers won a World Series title.
There have been many comparisons drawn between that historic 1988 Dodger team and the playoff-bound 2013 Dodgers, but up until two weeks ago, one of those comparisons did not include the painful truth that what was once four reasonably healthy All-Star caliber outfielders would quickly dwindle down to two – yet this is exactly what has happened.
When two-time All-Star Matt Kemp seriously injured his left ankle on a poorly executed slide attempt on July 21 only one day removed from the DL for a hamstring injury, two-time All-Star Andre Ethier continued as Kemp’s replacement in center field – a position that he not only played well but played exceptionally well. In fact, it was during Kemp’s extended time on the DL that the Dodgers went on their historic worst to first run in the NL West with Ethier as their everyday center fielder. But as everyone knows by now, Kemp re-injured his ankle on Friday night and is lost for the entire playoffs and Ethier himself is now on the shelf with an ankle injury and is questionable for the NLDS, which begins in three short days. As a result, 33-year-old utility infielder/outfielder Skip Schumaker will be the Dodgers center fielder for the NLDS.
…or will he?
For the past week Ethier has been at the Dodgers extended spring training facility at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ taking daily batting practice and working out in an Alter G anti-gravity treadmill machine trying to rehab his ailing left ankle.
Ethier doesn’t recall exactly when he first injured his ankle but believes that it was during an awkward swing when the Dodgers were playing the Rockies at Coors Field (aka: Curse Field) on September 2-4.
“I think it was on a swing that was an inside pitch and I kind of really rotated a lot,” said Ethier. “If you’ve seen someone over rotate and kind of get their ankle caught and almost twist and fall down, that’s kind of what I did.”
Ethier re-aggravated the ankle while running the bases on a double on September 13 causing him to exit the game. The injury was initially thought to be minor.
“It was just sore, but that’s the first time I really felt it like that,” Ethier said after the September 13 game. “I’ll get a good night’s sleep and come in tomorrow and see if I’m ready to go.”
Dodger manager Don Mattingly echoed Ethier’s initial sentiments.
“I don’t expect it to be anything other than having to give him some rest,” said the Dodger manager.
Unfortunately, things did not improve overnight and the next day the 31-year-old Dodger outfielder was seen limping around the clubhouse in a protective boot. A week later, Ethier was examined by Dodger team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache who described Ethier’s injured ankle as being similar to shin splints and would require some time to heal, hence the rehab program at Camelback Ranch.
“If he can’t run, he can’t play,” said Mattingly, who is seriously contemplating whether or not to include Ethier on the Division Series roster to be used strictly a pinch hitter – much like what Tommy Lasorda had to do with Kirk Gibson in 1988.
Ethier is scheduled to return to Los Angeles to workout with the team at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday prior to flying out to Atlanta on Tuesday night. He will be closely monitored by Mattingly and the Dodgers medical staff and a decision on his playoff status will be made at that time.
“(Ethier) is purposely not running the bases in an effort to give his ankle maximum rest,” said Stan Conte, the Dodgers Director of Medical Services. “I really truly have to wait to see him Tuesday to see. We have to evaluate him day by day.”
When you put all of this together and you realize just how important Andre Ethier has been to the success of the 2013 Dodger team, you can’t help but see a parallel to Kirk Gibson and the 1988 Dodger team. And I can’t help but envision Andre Ethier saying something to Mitch Poole… something similar to ”You know Mitch, this could be the script.”
This is the stuff that legends are made of.