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Updated: May 18, 2010, 2:08 AM ET

Dodgers face tough time without Ethier

Kruk By John Kruk
ESPN
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The Dodgers swept the Padres over the weekend, but not all was well with Los Angeles.

[+] EnlargeManny Ramirez
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziAs Andre Ethier heals, the Dodgers are going to need Manny Ramirez.

The Dodgers' best player this season, Andre Ethier, fractured his pinkie finger during batting practice Saturday. The recovery time is unknown, and the Dodgers are still unsure whether or not they will place him on the 15-day disabled list.

Ethier's injury comes as a huge blow to the Dodgers because he's their only left-handed power hitter. James Loney is a good hitter, but he's not a power guy. If Ethier is placed on the DL, there will be a lot of pressure on Loney to produce from the left side of the plate.

Losing Ethier, even for 15 days, is the one loss the Dodgers could least likely afford. They could probably lose Matt Kemp and Loney for a while -- but Ethier is their best hitter. He is absolutely irreplaceable.

Losing Ethier from the middle of the lineup is a very hard thing to compensate for. People like to say that finding a middle-of-the-lineup guy is easy. Well, if that's true, then every team would have that guy. Ethier is leading the NL in batting average and RBIs, and he is tied for the league lead with 11 homers. On top of all that, he adds a much-needed spark to the team. Ethier is to the Dodgers what Derek Jeter is to the New York Yankees -- both guys are willing to throw the game on their shoulders at crunch time.

The Dodgers, with a victory over the Astros on Monday night, have won eight in a row and are 13-3 over their past 16 games. Yes, they are on a roll, and now they may lose a guy. How will his teammates respond? Will Kemp take it upon himself to do his share and Ethier's share? The last thing you want for a young player is for him to think he has to carry the load himself. Next thing you know, somebody falls into a slump from trying to carry that load.

Manny Ramirez will play an integral role in the success of the Dodgers if Ethier sits out for any period. Nothing really fazes Manny, and that could be a huge plus for the team. Maybe the other players will feed off Manny's energy and hold off from pushing the panic button.

Week to week, the National League West race is like rolling a pair of dice. The division seems to ebb and flow. One week the Giants play well, then the Dodgers, then the Padres. You just don't know who is going to step up -- or when. Right now the Dodgers are on a hot streak. With the possibility of Ethier being out, the Dodgers have a big test ahead of them.

John Kruk is an analyst for "Baseball Tonight."

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