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ST. LOUIS -- Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier could play center field in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Friday, manager Don Mattingly said Thursday.
The club will wait to see how Ethier's injured left ankle responds Friday to a strenuous workout he had Thursday at Busch Stadium.
Ethier said he still had "lingering pain" in the ankle but was "able to keep pushing it" Thursday to the point where he was able to run the bases, slide, track down fly balls in the outfield, stop and plant, "and it wasn't getting worse."
So Ethier said he thinks he has reached the stage where he can play in the field in the NLCS "maybe the whole game or even a double-switch role."
However, because he hasn't played a game in the field for four weeks, he sounded resigned to a limited role initially, in the hope of building up to starting later in the series.
"Whatever role they need, I want to figure out how I can contribute more," Ethier said. "Pinch hitting is obviously a big role, and you can make a big impact, coming off the bench and getting a big hit. But I feel like I can do well on defense, too, playing center field. I felt like I did that well all year. And that's probably the most frustrating part.
"I feel like I'm really close to playing that. It's just, is it the time to test it in [the] playoffs? Center field is a lot different spot, of the three outfield spots, to give up a little defense. So it's one where I've felt comfortable, and I want to feel comfortable, and I'm sure Donnie and the staff want to feel the same way going forward. And rightfully so. All these games, all these pitches, everything is so important. And sometimes in these games, little mistakes can cost you and you can lose the series. So we want to make sure we have everything going the right way."
Nevertheless, the team has ramped up his activities significantly the past two days, and Ethier said Thursday was the most he'd pushed himself to test the ankle "by far."
"We're pushing it as hard as we can," he said. "And that was definitely the case today. Yesterday, it was an important day, just to go out there and run around and do what we did. But today was more important, to see if I could take the next step of sliding into second base and taking a hard turn from second to see if I could score. And doing three or four simulated innings of defense, take a break, defense, stuff like that. So we pushed it as far as we can today. And tomorrow will be the same thing."
Mattingly said the team would wait until after Ethier's pregame work Friday to make a decision on whether he will play. But the makeup of the Dodgers' NLCS roster also depends on how ready Ethier is, and the club has to submit it by Friday morning.