Don Mattingly was as mum as ever this morning about the postseason roster, which doesn’t have to be set until Thursday morning — he looked at me like I had two heads when I asked him whether the decision to go with three or four starting pitchers in the National League Division Series might not be made until after the NLDS begins — but on the subject of Andre Ethier, he was somewhat revealing, even if he didn’t intend to be.
Basically, Ethier still hasn’t tried to run the bases during the three days he has been working out at Camelback Ranch trying to get his left ankle back into playing shape for the playoffs. Now, Donnie very clearly stated before one of those games in San Francisco last week that Andre would have to be able to run the bases in order to be on the playoff roster. Well, that no longer appears to be the case.
Mattingly kept talking this morning of how, if Ethier can’t run, this decision will come down to how much of a tradeoff the Dodgers are willing to make in order to carry Ethier. Obviously, if he can’t run, he is limited to pinch hitting, and a left-handed pinch hitter is a valuable thing to have on your bench. But it also means that anytime you pinch-hit Ethier, you’re in effect committing to TWO players if Ethier reaches base — and you WANT him to reach base, otherwise why pinch-hit him? — because someone then will have to pinch run.
Keep in mind that even though it’s the manager who has to manage the roster he is given, it’s the general manager who makes the final decision as to who is on that roster. If Ned Colletti decides an injured Ethier is still worth keeping around due to his ability to get a big hit at a key time in a huge game, then he will be on the roster.
As I predicted earlier, there is no real cause for concern with Matt Kemp, even though he is out of the lineup for the second day in a row and, unless he pinch hits today or enters defensively and gets an at-bat, he will begin the playoffs on Thursday without having had a big league plate appearance in six days. His ankle “seems to be OK,” Mattingly said, adding that the medical staff isn’t really concerned about Kemp’s availability for Game 1 of the NLDS. Even though Kemp is hitting .314 (11-for-35) since he returned from missing almost two months with ankle and hamstring issues, Mattingly said the residual effects of the layoff haven’t completely disappeared.
“It looks to me a little like spring training, where there is a good day and then a bad day,” Mattingly said. “That is really what the early season is like, where one day you look good and the next day, you’re out of sorts. We haven’t seen that locked-in look from him yet.”
By the way, Todd Helton originally was hitting sixth in the Rockies lineup today. But Troy Tulowitzki suggested to manager Walt Weiss that out of respect for all that Helton has accomplished in this game, he should be moved up to third in the order, a much more glamorous spot where Helton traditionally hit for most of his career. The video tribute the Dodgers put together consisted almost entirely of Vin Scully speaking directly to Helton on the video board in left field. It was, typically of Scully, perfectly executed. He ended with the words, “Todd, have a wonderful life after baseball.” This prompted a loud ovation, and Helton, standing on the top step of the Rockies dugout behind the railing, waved his cap in acknowledgement.