Veteran of October baseball hopes to cash in on World Series appearance, ring
By AJ Cassavell
LOS ANGELES -- Greg Maddux was due up in Game 3 of the 2006 National League Division Series, when Dodgers manager Grady Little, in desperate need of a rally, turned instead to a clean-cut 24-year-old rookie named Andre Ethier. Making his first playoff plate appearance, Ethier smacked a line drive up the middle. Mets reliever Darren Oliver snared it and fired to third base for an inning-ending double play.
Eleven years later, that debut serves as something of a microcosm for Ethier's postseason career: So much opportunity, so quickly -- and cruelly -- taken away.
Another postseason opportunity awaits Ethier tonight at 7:30 p.m. PT, as the Dodgers host the D-backs in Game 1 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile. The veteran left fielder spent most of the season on the shelf with a herniated disc, but he returned in early September and has all but assured himself of a spot on his eighth playoff roster.
Nonetheless, Ethier has been greeted warmly by Dodgers fans at every turn over the past month. In that time, he's batted .235/.316/.441.
This October, Ethier's role will be similar to the one he played back in 2006. He'll be an outfielder off the bench and a lefty bat who can pinch-hit against right-handed pitching. (He posted an .827 OPS in his 35 plate appearances against righties this season.)
The difference, of course, is that Ethier has 12 regular seasons and 11 playoff series under his belt. His next postseason appearance will bring him five shy of Bill Russell's franchise record.
That fact was brought up to Ethier before Thursday's workout. He brushed it aside.
"I'll sit down in a year or two or three or four, whenever I'm done playing, and I'll look back and enjoy that stuff," Ethier said. "I really just try to prepare and stay in the moment. I'll gladly reflect on all this stuff at the end and enjoy it.
"And I definitely will enjoy it."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.