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Ethier's long road finally leads to Fall Classic

After 12 seasons, longest-tenured Dodger has chance to make franchise history
MLB.com @AJCassavell

CHICAGO -- It was a long road back to the World Series for the Dodgers, and -- among active players -- no road was longer than Andre Ethier's.

Twelve seasons after his debut, the longest-tenured Dodger is finally headed to the Fall Classic, which begins Tuesday night in Los Angeles vs. the Astros. Ethier has a chance to make some franchise history when he gets there, too. If he appears in three World Series games, he'll equal Bill Russell's Dodgers record of 49 postseason appearances.

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CHICAGO -- It was a long road back to the World Series for the Dodgers, and -- among active players -- no road was longer than Andre Ethier's.

Twelve seasons after his debut, the longest-tenured Dodger is finally headed to the Fall Classic, which begins Tuesday night in Los Angeles vs. the Astros. Ethier has a chance to make some franchise history when he gets there, too. If he appears in three World Series games, he'll equal Bill Russell's Dodgers record of 49 postseason appearances.

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It's reasonable to guess that Ethier will get to that mark, given his success as a lefty platoon option in the National League Championship Series presented by Camping World. But that goal didn't always seem so attainable. Ethier, in the final guaranteed season on his contract, didn't debut until Sept. 1 because of an ailing back. At the time, it wasn't clear he'd have a place in the Dodgers' postseason plans.

"I'm 35 years old, been playing since I was 5, it means a lot to keep doing this for all these years, to have this group of guys to rally around me when I was injured," Ethier said amid Thursday's celebrations. "You can have doubt in your mind, 'Where do I fit on this club?' But they kept cheering me on."

Dress for the World Series: Get Dodgers postseason gear

Ethier's 46 playoff games for the Dodgers are fourth most among active players with their current clubs. Only Yadier Molina, Buster Posey and Dustin Pedroia have more. They all have multiple rings, while Ethier is in search of his first.

Ethier opened his career as one of the game's top rookies in 2006, before making consecutive All-Star appearances in 2010-11. He earned a Gold Glove Award and a Silver Slugger along the way.

Now, Ethier is no longer a middle-of-the-order threat. But he is undeniably a useful left-handed-hitting piece to be used in October's tactical battles. Ethier started twice against a pair of tough righties in the NLCS, and he's 2-for-8 with a homer and a walk this postseason.

Video: NLCS Gm3: Ethier crushes a solo homer to right field

"When you realize you don't have control, you just play your game," Ethier said. "Don't try to steer the ship, you're just a guy on the ship doing your job. I'm grateful for all the experiences I've had this whole way."

Those experiences haven't always been kind to the 35-year-old left fielder.

At the beginning of the playoffs, Ethier joked: "Who else in baseball has been in eight playoffs in the last 12 years? And I've probably lost more than anyone in the playoffs the last 12 years, too."

Of course, Ethier has been in Los Angeles long enough to know what it was like before the Dodgers' recent run of success. In that regard, he's grateful for the commitment of the current ownership group.

"This ownership came in, did what they said, gave us the tools and personnel, everything and anything we need to win, and it was up to us as players to achieve that," Ethier said. "I'm so grateful to finally break through."

AJ Cassavell is in his seventh season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Andre Ethier