By Jon Weisman
Today, Andre Ethier took batting practice on the Dodger Stadium field for the first time in 2016 — about four months after he intended.
As he continues to fight his way toward recovery from a fractured right tibia suffered in Spring Training, Ethier is in a similar situation to what Clayton Kershaw also expressed today — eager to return, making progress toward that return, but ultimately at the mercy of his body’s willingness to return.
“We’re just trying to take — I wouldn’t say steps, I would say we’re trying to take leaps because of how the timetable is,” Ethier said.
“Certain movements or certain things will flare up, but I think the key part of that is how my body reacts afterwards. Before, when I had those little pains or little flareups, they would last a day or last a couple days. Now, they’re lasting maybe minutes, which is a good sign.”
Ethier said that because of nerve damange, “there’s going to be residual pain even if it’s completely 100 percent healed” for the next year or two. So he’s ready to tolerate it, but he’s not going to ignore warning signs that would point to the risk of a re-injury and surgery.
“There’s playing for the right reasons, and there’s playing and being dumb,” said Ethier, who added that he has been running at full speed in a harness and doing controlled jogging at about 50-percent effort.
What has kept Ethier sane during this lost season to date? His kids.
“I’ve been home and had a chance to do some things for the first time that I’ve ever done, from watching my youngest one graduate from preschool, taking my kids to certain things,” Ethier said. “It wasn’t something where I was glad I’m in that situation, but I’m going to make the most of it.”
“I’ve thrown balls off it to see how the pain and tolerance level gets,” Ethier said. “It still hurts. I think we have a game plan going for when I get into a game or take live hitting off a pitcher, where we’re going to have another shield on top of it. … I know it’s going to happen again. I guess now it’s just managing the pain level when it does happen again.
“Honestly, I’m not concerned about it. I’ve been swinging in the cage and having guys throw inside. If it happens, it happens. I’m not going to adjust my swing or adjust my approach to have it not happen again.”