Ramirez, Kemp inch closer to return

ST. LOUIS -- Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez will avoid a trip to the disabled list, but manager Don Mattingly says he isn't sure when he will return to the field.

Ramirez has been sidelined since jamming his right shoulder while tumbling into the stands after making a catch Sunday in a game against the Chicago Cubs.

"Hanley is moving forward," Mattingly said Thursday before the Dodgers played the St. Louis Cardinals. "He swung the bat a little bit during the game last night, just real easy and he'll do more of that after we get out of the cages today, probably during the game again. He didn't have any trouble coming back today so we're encouraged by that."

Ramirez also worked on throwing Thursday and could be used to pinch hit this week, but Mattingly didn't want to hold Ramirez to that, potentially giving him a full week off.

"I don't know if we're there yet," Mattingly said about Ramirez playing this week. "But we're moving in the right direction with him. The fact that he was hitting off the tee yesterday and bounces back today without any more soreness and still feels better today is a good sign for us. I see him in the weight room doing some stuff today. I'm encouraged with Hanley. We haven't stalled anywhere where it's not getting any better. We're still continuing to move forward."

Matt Kemp, who has been on the disabled list since July 22 because of a left ankle sprain, took part in batting practice for the first time Wednesday and was throwing and catching in the outfield Thursday. He says he expects to be back this month and Mattingly didn't see any reason to doubt him.

"Matt did some running in place yesterday and today and he did even more today, elevation and things like that," Mattingly said. "He's doing good. It's encouraging and we'll see where it goes tomorrow."

Despite all their injuries, the Dodgers have won 16 of their past 17 road games, 33 of their past 41 games and are unbeaten in their past 14 series. Mattingly, however, knows the Dodgers will need Ramirez and Kemp back eventually if they want to continue their success.

"You win without guys short term," Mattingly said. "In the long run you don't win without your best guys. You survive without Hanley and you survive without Matt for a short period of time but you don't do it for the whole season. It's good to win. It makes them feel better because they don't have to rush to get back, as long as we can get wins on the board and get them back when their body feels right. We're at the point where guys believe they can win."