Andre Ethier & Dodgers center field dilemma

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier started 138 of the Dodgers' 162 games in center field this season. Both have ankle injuries, to varying degrees, which spells trouble for the playoffs.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers losing Matt Kemp is obviously a problem, but one that the team was essentially built to deal with. But with Andre Ethier also nursing an ankle injury and in doubt to even make the NLDS roster, the Dodgers are in quite the predicament heading into the playoffs.

Ethier has one plate appearance since Sept. 13, the last time he played center field. He has been at Camelback Ranch in Arizona since Friday getting at-bats in simulated game situations against Dodgers minor league pitchers. He will continue through Monday in Arizona, where he has been able to hit and throw, and even has run on a treadmill.

But he hasn't run the bases, yet. And he likely won't until at least Tuesday, when the Dodgers hold a team workout in the morning before flying to Atlanta.

"He is purposely not running the bases, in an effort to give his ankle maximum rest," said Dodgers director of medical services Stan Conte. "I really truly have to wait to see him Tuesday to see. We have to evaluate him day by day."

"If he can't run, he can't play," said manager Don Mattingly, who remains open to the idea of Ethier on the roster as strictly a pinch hitter.

If I were a betting man — and I am — I would bet on Ethier making the Dodgers roster, even if it is only to pinch hit. But to expect him to go from not being able to run the bases to starting center fielder seems a bit of a stretch.

That leaves a scenario with Skip Schumaker the mostly every day center fielder, maybe with a splash of Yasiel Puig.

"We've tried Yasiel a little bit, and were not that happy about it. But in desperate times you do desperate things. We'll continue to have discussions," Mattingly said. "I'm happy with Schu the way he plays center."

Schumaker played 29 games in center field for the Dodgers this season, including 17 starts. But he also hit just .263/.332/.332. Putting Puig in center would allow for someone like Scott Van Slyke (if he makes the roster), who hit .240/.342/.465, in right field for a lineup with more offense, but at a defensive cost.

The bottom line as that without Kemp and without Ethier the Dodgers have no ideal option. Which makes the workouts Tuesday at Dodger Stadium and Wednesday in Atlanta of premium importance, to see just what Ethier and his left ankle can do.

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