Andre Ethier starting in center field for Dodgers in Game 1 of the NLCS

David Brown

ST. LOUIS — A day ago, Andre Ethier didn't seem 100 percent certain that the National League Championship Series was the best place to test his sore lower left leg, which has been bothering him since Sept. 13. But after his toughest workout since getting hurt, Ethier said he's good enough to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday night.

Manager Don Mattingly made the announcement about 3 1/2 hours before the first pitch was scheduled.

"He basically had to tell us that he felt like he was going to go out there and make all the plays," Mattingly said. "It needed to be him saying, 'I feel like I can make the plays.' He had to have confidence, not only for me but for all of the guys in the room. We're confident that he's able to play center field like he can."

Skip Schumaker had been starting in center, and the Dodgers also had played Matt Kemp out there until he was shut down for the season with an injury. Having Ethier makes a tough lineup that much tougher for right-hander Joe Kelly — the Cards starter in Game 1 — and the other pitchers. Ethier hit .272/.360/.423 in the regular season with 12 home runs in 553 plate appearances.

"It gets us back to kind of the lineup that we played most of the middle of the year," Mattingly said, referring to the Dodgers' record-breaking 42-8 run. "It feels good to get him back in there."

Depending on how much Game 1 takes a toll on Ethier physically, he might be relegated to pinch hitting in Game 2 and beyond, like he was in the NLDS round. But Mattingly says he should be good to go for now.

"A lot of things we saw yesterday told us," Mattingly said. "At first I wasn't that happy, but as the day went on, he got better and better. He's out there making turns. It feels like he's at least back today. We don't know how he'll respond. The best-case scenario is that he'll be able to bounce back" and keep starting.

The postseason marches on!
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