LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier's left ankle has made significant improvement in recent days and he's likely to return to the starting lineup if the Dodgers reach the National League Championship Series.
On Sunday, he went through the most aggressive set of defensive drills in recent weeks and wasn't tentative on the ankle. After taking batted balls in center field, Ethier took an impressive batting practice with the team and ran at half-speed around the bases, stopping at first base to speak with manager Don Mattingly. Until Sunday, Ethier hadn't tried to run around the bases since Sept. 24.
Ethier originally injured the leg on a swing in Colorado on Sept. 4 and reinjured it on a double against the Giants on Sept. 13, the last time he started a game.
The club is calling the injury a left ankle sprain. Ethier said the discomfort he has is believed to stem from the periosteum, the sheath that covers the bones of the leg, with pain similar to shin splints.
The club decided to keep Ethier on the 25-man active roster for the Division Series exclusively for pinch-hitting because he was unable to round the bases or move laterally in the outfield. On Sunday he showed signs of doing both.
Skip Schumaker has taken over center field for Ethier, who had taken over center field for Matt Kemp, who is out for the remainder of the season with a different type of ankle injury.
Schumaker is 1-for-6 with a strikeout and sacrifice fly. Ethier grounded out as a pinch-hitter in Game 1 and walked as a pinch-hitter in Game 2.
Gordon regrets flinch on steal attempt in Game 2
LOS ANGELES -- Upon further review, Dodgers pinch-runner Dee Gordon has one regret about his controversial caught stealing in Game 2 of the National League Division Series.
"On my jump, I flinched," Gordon said after reviewing video of the ninth-inning play. "I wouldn't go if I had it to do again. I was looking for a key from the pitcher. I didn't even realize the flinch until I saw it on the video. I'll know better next time."
Gordon had a 15-minute baserunning session with first-base coach Davey Lopes early Sunday.
Gordon, whose primary playoff role is pinch-runner, pinch-ran after A.J. Ellis' one-out walk and was thrown out at second by backup catcher Gerald Laird. The catcher's throw to second was short-hopped by shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who slapped a tag on Gordon's lower body as Gordon slid past headfirst. Umpire Bill Miller called Gordon out.
Although Miller's call shocked Gordon and Don Mattingly said he disagreed with it, MLB executive Joe Torre said Sunday that replays were inconclusive and, if the play had occurred next season with expanded replay, it would not have been overturned.
It was Gordon's first steal attempt since Sept. 20 and the first time he had been thrown out stealing in the Major Leagues since May 18. He was 10-for-12 stealing with the Dodgers this year and 49-for-60 at Triple-A Albuquerque.
Tip of the Cap: Lefty delivers for Dodgers in relief
LOS ANGELES -- Chris Capuano gave the Dodgers exactly what they needed Sunday with three scoreless innings in relief of starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, earning the win in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
After the Braves got to Ryu for four runs in three innings, Capuano got nine important outs to turn things over to a rested Dodgers bullpen in Los Angeles' 13-6 victory.
"He kind of basically just put the game in order," manager Don Mattingly said.
Making his first career postseason appearance, Capuano walked the first batter he faced in all three innings. But he was able to keep Atlanta from capitalizing.
"That's as nervous as I've been since I first stood on a big league mound 10 years ago," said Capuano, who struck out three and didn't allow a hit. "My heart was pounding the whole time. I had three leadoff walks, but fortunately I was able to pitch around them."
Capuano's biggest escape came in the sixth. The left-hander fell behind Elliot Johnson, 3-0, but battled back and got the second baseman to ground into a double play. Capuano then struck out pinch-hitter B.J. Upton to escape the inning and help preserve the rest of the bullpen.
"That was a big turning point for us," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He made big pitches all night. Those nine outs he got were difference-makers."
Dodgers could turn to Kershaw on short rest
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers list Ricky Nolasco as their starter for Game 4 of the National League Division Series, but Clayton Kershaw is an option to pitch on short rest Monday with the club one victory from advancing to the Championship Series.
"I'd like to be able to close this out tomorrow," manager Don Mattingly said Sunday after a 13-6 win over the Braves in Game 3. "You never know what happens. Twists and turns of this game."
If Dodgers management decides to go with Kershaw in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium, live on TBS at 6:30 p.m. PT, Nolasco said he would understand the decision.
"This isn't about me, this is about the team," Nolasco said before Game 3. "Whatever decision they make is going to be the best decision for the team. So I'm with whatever. They're the ones who get paid to make those decisions. So I'll be here ready to take the ball whenever they ask me to pitch."
Nolasco has never pitched in the postseason. The right-hander won eight of his first 11 starts with the Dodgers after being acquired from the Marlins in July, but he allowed 17 runs in 12 innings over his final three starts of the regular season. He has not started since Sept. 25, with one inning of relief Sept. 29.
Kershaw threw a shortened "touch-and-feel" bullpen session Saturday, keeping open the possibility to start Game 4 against the Braves. The former NL Cy Young Award winner has never pitched on three days' rest. He made 124 pitches over seven innings of one-run ball to win Game 1 Thursday in Atlanta.
Zack Greinke would be available to start Game 5 on Wednesday on regular rest, should Kershaw get the ball in Game 4 and the series shift back to Atlanta. Greinke, who went six innings and took the loss Friday in Game 2, threw in the bullpen Sunday.