LOS ANGELES -- Greg Maddux was due up in Game 3 of the 2006 National League Division Series, when Dodgers manager Grady Little, in desperate need of a rally, turned instead to a clean-cut 24-year-old rookie named Andre Ethier. Making his first playoff plate appearance, Ethier smacked a line drive
LOS ANGELES -- Greg Maddux was due up in Game 3 of the 2006 National League Division Series, when Dodgers manager Grady Little, in desperate need of a rally, turned instead to a clean-cut 24-year-old rookie named Andre Ethier. Making his first playoff plate appearance, Ethier smacked a line drive up the middle. Mets reliever Darren Oliver snared it and fired to third base for an inning-ending double play.
Eleven years later, that debut serves as something of a microcosm for Ethier's postseason career: So much opportunity, so quickly -- and cruelly -- taken away.
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Another postseason opportunity awaits Ethier tonight at 7:30 p.m. PT, as the Dodgers host the D-backs in Game 1 of the NLDS presented by T-Mobile. The veteran left fielder spent most of the season on the shelf with a herniated disc, but he returned in early September and has all but assured himself of a spot on his eighth playoff roster.
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"Who else in baseball has been in eight playoffs in the last 12 years?" Ethier said with a laugh. "And I've probably lost more than anyone in the playoffs the last 12 years, too."
He added: "I kind of cringe when I think about all those playoffs we've been in. You talk about five NL West championships in a row, and it really doesn't mean much unless you win at the end."
Ethier is now a grizzled veteran of 43 postseason games. Among active players, only Buster Posey (53), Dustin Pedroia (47) and Yadier Molina (89) have played more for their current clubs.
The difference? Posey, Pedroia and Molina have multiple World Series rings. Ethier has yet to play a game on the Fall Classic stage.
"You just don't know how many opportunities there are," Ethier said. "That's one thing I've reiterated to all these guys here."
It might be Ethier's last. This postseason run is undeniably a bit different for Ethier, whose contract runs out next month, with the Dodgers unlikely to pick up his $17.5 million option.
As he rehabbed his ailing back this summer, Ethier said he spent some time reflecting. But since his return to the lineup on Sept. 1, it's been all business.
"I'm not going to let that dictate the way I prepare and do things," Ethier said. "I don't want that to steer me or creep into my head. ... I'll address all that stuff at the end, when it comes."
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Nonetheless, Ethier has been greeted warmly by Dodgers fans at every turn over the past month. In that time, he's batted .235/.316/.441.
This October, Ethier's role will be similar to the one he played back in 2006. He'll be an outfielder off the bench and a lefty bat who can pinch-hit against right-handed pitching. (He posted an .827 OPS in his 35 plate appearances against righties this season.)
The difference, of course, is that Ethier has 12 regular seasons and 11 playoff series under his belt. His next postseason appearance will bring him five shy of Bill Russell's franchise record.
That fact was brought up to Ethier before Thursday's workout. He brushed it aside.
"I'll sit down in a year or two or three or four, whenever I'm done playing, and I'll look back and enjoy that stuff," Ethier said. "I really just try to prepare and stay in the moment. I'll gladly reflect on all this stuff at the end and enjoy it.
"And I definitely will enjoy it."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.