On March 20, Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier underwent an examination on his balky lower back. A team doctor diagnosed a herniated disk and prescribed a painkilling epidural injection. The Dodgers described the injury as “mild” and suggested they would reevaluate Ethier a week later.
Nearly five weeks have passed since the diagnosis. Ethier has still not been cleared to resume baseball activities, and manager Dave Roberts indicated there is no timetable for that process to begin. Given Ethier’s extended downtime, Roberts admitted on Thursday that Ethier will not be ready to rejoin the Dodgers until June — “at the earliest,” he said.
And arriving even that soon is predicated on Ethier making significant progress in the next week or so.
“The time that it’s taken, at this point, it’s almost like [he’ll need] a spring training again,” Roberts said. “So if you look at the progression of a player trying to get his body back into shape, get the at-bats to feel comfortable to get in that rhythm, I’m not saying it needs to be a dedicated six weeks. But from the time of baseball activity, it’s easily fair to say [it’ll take] a month after that.”
Ethier sat out the first five months of 2016 after fracturing his leg on a foul ball in March. He appears caught in another lengthy rehabilitation process.
In 2015, Ethier’s last healthy season, he feasted on right-handed pitchers and finished with a .294 batting average and an .852 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. The Dodgers have not been able to capitalize on his talent these past two years. With Ethier out, the team has relied on Andrew Toles, who has struggled in his second big-league season.
The team optioned left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore to triple-A Oklahoma City to make room for Julio Urias . . . The team plans to activate left-handed reliever Grant Dayton from the disabled list before Friday’s game against the Phillies. “But,” Roberts said, “obviously, things can change.”