Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier might not be available for the start of… (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images )
SAN FRANCISCO — Andre Ethier might not be available for the start of the playoffs next week, Manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday after the outfielder returned to Los Angeles to visit the Dodgers' physician.
Before the Dodgers' game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park, Mattingly shook his head and said, "It keeps getting worked out for me."
All season, Mattingly has been asked how he will divide playing time in the outfield when Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford are all healthy. He has had all four players available for only two games this season. In both games, Kemp was injured.
Of his potentially overcrowded outfield, Mattingly said, "Hopefully, I have that problem. I'd like to have that problem to deal with."
Ethier, who has shin splints on his left leg, wasn't expected to be sidelined for this long.
He initially felt something while the Dodgers were in Colorado early this month. About a week later, on Sept. 13, he prematurely exited a game when the pain returned. Ethier underwent tests that weekend, which determined he didn't have a stress fracture.
The Dodgers thought Ethier might be able to return to the lineup Tuesday. In an early workout at AT&T Park that day, Ethier took fly balls in center field. But when he tried to run the bases, he couldn't.
"Does it worry me?" Mattingly said. "Yeah, I'm a little worried about him just because it didn't look very good yesterday and he wasn't running very hard when it happened."
As a precaution, the Dodgers sent Ethier to Los Angeles to be examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache and Dr. Phillip Wong, a foot specialist. Ethier underwent an MRI exam and a CT scan, which showed that although his condition improved, he wasn't completely healed.
No timetable was set for his return, meaning Ethier remained in danger of being excluded from the 25-man playoff roster.
If Ethier can't run, he probably won't make it, not even as a pinch-hitting specialist.
"It's tough to think you wouldn't play healthy," Mattingly said. "You don't really want to play short."
If Ethier is unavailable for the National League division series, the Dodgers probably will turn to Scott Van Slyke to be their fourth outfielder. Van Slyke has seven home runs in 123 at-bats.
"We're always making plans for different scenarios," Mattingly said. "For a while we were doing that with Matt. We didn't know if he was going to be available or not. Now it's Andre."
For Ethier, this could mark the disappointing end to a season that has restored his reputation as a team player.
Although Ethier's offensive numbers are down — he is hitting .272 with 12 home runs and 52 runs batted in — his play in center field is often cited as one of the primary reasons the Dodgers have been able to overcome the prolonged absence of Kemp.
Before this season, Ethier had played center field in only one regular-season game.
He has played the position in 73 games this season, receiving high marks from his coaches and pitchers.