Dodgers News: For Andre Ethier And Joe Blanton, NLDS Comes With Added Satisfaction
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Blanton and Andre Ethier are no strangers to the postseason. But being with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2016 National League Division Series comes with a different sense of satisfaction for both players for different reasons.

He sustained a fractured tibia late in Spring Training as a result of a foul ball. Ethier was initially diagnosed with a lower leg contusion, and even once further examination revealed a fracture, a 10-14 week timetable was in place.

Ethier’s recovery progressed much slower than anticipated. He didn’t come off the 60-day disabled list until Sept. 10, and still isn’t 100 percent.

“Every once in a while (feels pain), but not when I’m doing any baseball activities,” Ethier said.

“It’s kind of strange. Like if I have my sock up, the elastic part will be on it for an hour, and I’ll wonder why my leg is throbbing. Any of the baseball stuff, no. That was the toughest for me, was to be able to let go and trust going out there playing and not thinking everything through.”

Rehabbing and the groundwork to overcoming that doubt was done throughout the summer at Camelback Ranch. “A lot of people worked hard to get to [Tuesday],” Ethier said.

“From the guys in Arizona, the five months together we spent spinning our wheels and kicking rocks everyday, to the guys here, my teammates texting me all the time. It’s a good thing, it feels good right now. We still have one big game that I’m sure all 25 guys are going to be involved in.”

For as much as Ethier and the Dodgers maintained a return this season was probable, more doubt set in with each passing week. He logged just 26 plate appearances over the final month. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts nonetheless included Ethier on the postseason roster, because of a trust in his at-bat quality.

Ethier was used as a decoy throughout the series, then finally got an opportunity in the eighth inning of Game 4. He delivered with a pinch-hit, two-out single into left field to beat the shift. Chase Utley followed with a base hit that scored Andrew Toles, the go-ahead run, from second base.

In contrast to Ethier’s usage, throughout the NLDS, Blanton has been integral out of the bullpen. Entering Game 5, the right-hander has thrown 3.2 scoreless innings and has five strikeouts over three appearances.

“It was a long road there for a couple years. But I’m at where I’m at, and I’m kind of enjoying the ride right now,” Blanton said after Game 4. Blanton has made a seamless transition from starting pitcher to reliever, and bounced back from a retirement of sorts.

He was released by the Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim in the spring of 2014, despite the club still owing $8.5 million on Blanton’s contract. He signed a Minor League deal the Oakland Athletics, only to get released, at Blanton’s request, two weeks later.

Blanton didn’t pitch during the 2014 season, then resurrected his career last season with the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates. That led to a one-year contract with the Dodgers. And after a strong showing with the club, Blanton figures to again be key in a winner-take-all Game 5.