LOS ANGELES -- Ultimately, Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said the decision to return to the lineup for Game 3 of the National League Championship Series rested between him and manager Don Mattingly. Ethier's preference?
"Strap it on and go," he said following batting practice Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
Minutes later, the Dodgers released their official Game 3 lineup, with Ethier batting fifth and playing center field. Though he admitted he was not "quite as physically sharp" as before Game 1, when he played 12-plus innings in the field despite continued soreness in his injured left ankle, Ethier added that he felt "definitely able to go out there and get the job done."
"You work so hard all year and all season -- your whole career -- to get opportunities like this," said Ethier, who was limited to a pinch-hit appearance in Game 2. "We're four years removed from our last shot being here. You don't know when they come. It's definitely a thing where you don't want to have regrets not going out there and giving it a shot, trying it out and seeing what you can do."
With that in mind, the Dodgers simply wanted to ensure that the benefits of inserting Ethier into the lineup would outweigh the potential pitfalls. So Ethier spent time shagging fly balls during batting practice to gauge his range and explosiveness, saying afterward that he felt "about the same" as before Game 1.
Ethier added that there was no talk of moving to a less physically demanding corner-outfield spot, stressing that the Dodgers' best lineup is with Carl Crawford in left and Yasiel Puig in right. A natural corner outfielder himself, Ethier was unable to corral Carlos Beltran's two-run double to the wall in Game 1, albeit on a play that would have required a spectacular catch.
Perhaps more troubling for the Dodgers is the fact that Ethier entered Monday's play 1-for-6 in the series, 1-for-11 in the postseason and 1-for-12 since originally injuring his ankle in mid-September -- a recent history that does not have him concerned.
"When you're out there caught up in the emotion and adrenaline of a playoff game, sometimes those little things that are bothering you can kind of go away," Ethier said. "I've been telling Donnie I think that's what can happen here."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less