Mattingly upbeat as Ethier’s injury looks minor

The Los Angeles Dodgers received an optimistic evaluation on Andre Ethier, with manager Don Mattingly announcing that the star outfielder’s oblique injury should not keep him sidelined for an extended period of time and he will continue to be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

“Still calling it a strain in here, but it’s in the better side for us, for a left-handed hitter,” Mattingly said to reporters prior to the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the New York Mets on Thursday, their ninth loss in 10 games. “It’s on the left side. At this point, we’re kind of day to day. Yesterday, I kind of assumed that we were be in a DL situation, but, really, the docs looked at it, didn’t see any swelling, so really it couldn’t really be any better as far as the news, as the doctors are concerned.”

Ethier was injured trying to break up a double play in Los Angeles’ 3-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants Wednesday, their third consecutive shutout defeat and one that punctuated a 1-8 road trip through Oakland, Anaheim and San Francisco. He had been batting .291 with 10 HR and leads the team with 55 RBI.

To bring in an outfield bat, the Dodgers recalled Scott Van Slyke from Albuquerque and demoted infielder Ivan De Jesus. The right-handed batter was hitting .306 with two home runs since his assignment to Triple-A on June 4 and is batting .326 with 10 home runs overall in the Pacific Coast League. After an 0-4 performance in Thursday’s loss, his major league average fell to .171, though he spoke of feeling more comfortable in a Dodger uniform before the game.

“I felt good,” Van Slyke said about his earlier major league stint from May 9 to June 4. “I didn’t get to play every day, but I thought the last week, 10 days up here kind of got off the adrenaline rush of being up here and kind of settled in and had some better ABs.”

Thoughts of Matt Kemp potentially re-joining his teammates prior to the All-Star Break appeared unlikely when Mattingly alluded to the outfielder’s progress in attempting to return from a hamstring injury that has limited him to 36 games thus far. Los Angeles dropped below .500 in games played without Kemp (20-21) after Thursday’s loss, a still-impressive stat considering Mattingly’s constant efforts to find complementary puzzle pieces in the absence of several star players, their No. 2 hitter and several valuable arms.

“We look like we’re going to we’re going to have a chance to get Mark Ellis back possibly before the break, possibly get Matt back really quickly after the break,” Mattingly said. “It doesn’t sound like Andre’s going to be (out) an extended period of time. Within a short period of time, we’re going to see our lineup being back together. If everything would kind of go in that direction, we’re going to see probably Javy Guerra back within that same time frame, too. We’re getting ready to get some pretty big pieces for our club back into the mix, and I think at the end of the day we’ve got to be optimistic.”

“Again, I have to re-group and think about this thing, and if you tell me we were going to walk out of spring training, and with 11 games before the break, you’re going to have played more than half of it without Matt, and during that period you’re going to lose a starting pitcher in Ted Lilly, you’re going to lose Matt Guerrier, Javy Guerra, and you’re going to be tied for first? We would have walked out of spring training and said, ‘Sign me up. We’ll play the rest of the year. Let’s go.'”

A team homerless in its last six games and having scored 15 times in its last 10 will need that type of spunk when they face a potential National League All-Star starter Friday night in Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

“Any big league team on any given night can beat you, and they are a very good big league baseball team who leads their division,” Dickey said prior to the Dodgers’ loss on Thursday that dropped them one game behind the San Francisco Giants, who moved into first place in the NL West with a 5-0 win over Cincinnati. It was the Giants’ fourth consecutive shutout.

With Ethier likely avoiding a long-term injury and reinforcements due to arrive around the turn of the All-Star Break, much of Mattingly’s message carried positive undertones despite a nightmarish road trip that concluded with the team’s equipment truck breaking down en route to the airport and weight issues temporarily grounding their charter flight back to Los Angeles.  

“Yesterday was a frustrating day,” Mattingly said. “But you know what? At the end of the day — we’ve played this game a long time — and if we’re just going to fold up and go home now, why would we even want to come today? Why would we even play the rest of the season if we don’t think we’re going to come here and play baseball and have an opportunity to win? That’s not in guys’ DNA that are in professional sports that are basically in a position right now — we’re in a pennant race. I don’t think anybody thought we weren’t going to be in one, [that] it was going to be easy through the course of the season, that we were just going to walk away with this thing and run away, and there was going to be no important games, and we weren’t going to have any pressure. So I think we’re OK. I think our guys will be all right.”

Despite the depleted lineup suffering through five consecutive losses, don’t expect the team’s approach to change or for their conviction to weaken.

“At the end of the day, I think you’ve got to regroup, and you do what you’ve been doing. We’ve got to get ready to play. We’ve got to battle our way to the break. So that’s where we’re at. No matter where we’ve been, that’s where we’re at. To me, we’ve just got to look at it optimistically. Get ready to play, win every game we can possibly win, get our guys back and say ‘Let’s go. Let’s fight. Let’s play.'”