Dodgers 2016 Player Review: Andre Ethier
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Spring Training began on a positive note for Andre Ethier as he was named the starting left fielder by Los Angeles Dodgers manager during the early going. Roberts also said Ethier was a candidate to bat leadoff come the regular season.

However, the best-laid plans were washed away in one fell swoop when Ethier fouled a pitch off his shin in late March. The veteran outfielder was originally diagnosed with a bone bruise and listed as day-to-day.

After minimal improvement, a follow-up scan revealed Ethier sustained a fractured right tibia. He was projected to miss eight to 12 weeks.

The injury took longer than expected to heal, and as the time passed it became questionable whether Ethier would play at all this season.

He nonetheless pressed forward with the rehab process, and made his 2016 debut against the Miami Marlins on Sept. 10. Ethier went 5-for-24 (.208) with one home run and two RBIs over 16 games.

Despite the limited playing time, Roberts valued Ethier’s at-bat quality and carried the veteran outfielder on the National League Division Series and NL Championship Series rosters.

Ethier went 1-for-2 in the NLDS, with his lone hit coming in Game 4. He was 1-for-4 against the Chicago Cubs, hitting a pinch-hit solo home run in Game 1.

2016 Highlight

Ethier’s pair of postseason came at important times for the Dodgers. With the Dodgers facing elimination against the Washington Nationals in Game 4, Ethier stepped to the plate with a runner on first base and two outs.

Being the 11-year veteran that he is, Ethier did not try to do to much and slapped a base hit to left field, setting up the game-winning hit by Chase Utley to send the series to a decisive Game 5 that Los Angeles won.

Then in Game 1 against the Cubs in the NLCS, the Dodgers could not muster any offense despite hitting the ball hard off Jon Lester. Trailing 3-0 with two outs in the fifth, Roberts made an interesting move with the bases empty by sending up Ethier to pinch-hit for starter Kenta Maeda.

Ethier lifted a fly ball the opposite way that reached the Wrigley Field jet stream and carried out for a home run, cutting the Dodgers’ deficit to 3-1.

2017 Outlook

While Ethier was not playing at 100 percent this season, he should be fully healthy heading into Spring Training next year. He turns 35 years old April and is entering the final guarnateed year of his contract.

Whether or not Ethier can return to being a full-time player remains in question. There may be some hope as it was all that long ago (2015) where he hit .294/.366/.486 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs in 142 games.

Ethier will have to prove that he can return to that form next spring if he wants to earn a starting spot in a crowded Dodgers outfield.