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Why the Dodgers placing Andre Ethier on the disabled list is really going to hurt

May 18, 2010 |  9:07 pm
Now it’s not easy being the appointed Eeyore of Dodgers baseball writers while the Boys in Blue are in the midst of a multi-game winning streak, but I do my best.

So with the Dodgers officially placing Andre Ethier on the disabled list, I feel obligated to mention what exactly could go wrong here. I mean, besides everything.

First off, there is the great unknown: How long the Triple Crown threat will be out.

No one is offering a firm answer on this one, but here’s a safe bet: It will be plenty longer than the 15 days he’s been assigned on the disabled list.

He broke his pinky finger just above the first knuckle. Broken bones normally take more than a couple of weeks to heal.

"I don’t think we’ll know until we X-ray it again in a couple of weeks and see what it looks like," said manager Joe Torre. "It all depends on how quickly he heals.

"If it’s three weeks, it’s three weeks. If it’s four weeks, it’s four weeks. It’s whatever it is. Hopefully he heals quickly."

Ethier said he wasn’t exactly given a firm timetable by the team medical staff.

"Pretty broad," Ethier said. "Three to six, or two to four. Who knows?"

And then there’s the matter of possible re-injury. Ethier said the small finger not only slipped under the knob of his bat when he swung, but actually continued up the inside of the bat so that his pinky was on the opposite side of the bat from the rest of his fingers.

Turning the bat on a freshly healed break when he returns could pose the risk of aggravating the break. Torre said he’s been assured that when the bone heals it won’t be a problem.

One thing that apparently won’t happen is Ethier adjusting his swing because of the injury.

"I hope not," said Torre.

Said Ethier: "I’m going to grip it the same way. I’ve probably done it 50 times in my life, and this is the first time anything serious has happened."

The Dodgers could have elected not to place Ethier on the DL and tried to have him play through the break when the pain began to abate.

"But we wouldn’t get the same player," Torre said. "At that point you have the danger of not having him for the rest of the year because of the habits he developed."

Said Ethier: "What’s the point of pushing it right now if it’s going to change the way I swing?"

Those who have suggested that Ethier should buck up and play through the pain either don’t understand the nature of the break or have never tried to swing a bat at a 90 mph fastball.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers are not going to be the same club.

Ethier is the only real left-handed power hitter in the lineup. Next comes James Loney, who’s never hit more than 15 homeruns in a season.

"I’m not really worried about that," Torre said. "We have some production guys. James is not going to go out there and hit 30 homers, I think he’s going to hit 20 at some point.

"But if we get enough activity on the bases, you don’t necessarily need home runs. You’re going to get some from time to time. I mean, you don’t want to lose him. I’m not going to say we’re as strong without him. I’m not pretending that’s going to be the case. But it doesn’t mean you can’t win ballgames."

Ethier, of course, has also been the best clutch hitter in baseball for two seasons. He has 11 walk-off hits since the start of the 2009 season.

"He’s a middle-of-the-order bat,’’ said general manager Ned Colletti. "It’s obvious the way he hits in the clutch is a little above average. We’ll miss him in some of those areas."

Without Ethier, everyone from the middle of the lineup on has to move up a spot. Replacing him with either Xavier Paul or Reed Johnson in the No. 2 spot leaves a markedly less threatening batting order.

"What probably makes it bad is the team part," Ethier said. "We’re really coming together as a team. It’s been a long month and a half to get ourselves into this position. To be missing time while that’s going on is the tough part."

-- Steve Dilbeck