Ethier progressing, takes BP with team

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier took batting practice on the field with the team before Tuesday night's game.

The Dodgers haven't ruled out the possibility that he would return from the 15-day disabled list as soon as he was eligible Sunday, although manager Joe Torre said that might be "a little soon."

"He seems to be walking around with a little spring in his step," Torre said. "Hopefully, that is an indication we will be able to get him off [the DL] at some point. He is doing a lot of stuff we didn't anticipate him doing this early, but we're still going to have to make a decision, and the only way to make that decision is by talking to him because he is the one swinging the bat."

Ethier's progress seems to be spurred on by a different type of splint he is wearing on his right pinkie, where he broke a knuckle hitting in an indoor batting cage May 14.

Torre also didn't rule out the possibility Ethier would go on a brief minor league rehabilitation assignment before being activated, which could push his return into the middle of next week at the earliest.

"He hasn't been away that long," Torre said. "A lot of it is going to come down to what he is comfortable doing. He may have to be convinced to go down and play a couple of games, but it certainly isn't a bad idea."

Torre said Ethier wouldn't be activated until he was completely comfortable swinging a bat normally.

"It's just a matter of him trusting it," Torre said. "The last thing I want to do is get him into bad habits trying to protect it."

Sherrill's pain

Dodgers reliever George Sherrill said his back stiffened after he went to bed Saturday night, and while he initially didn't think it was serious, it put Sherrill on the 15-day disabled list when the club needed a roster spot Tuesday to activate Rafael Furcal.

Sherrill said he injured his back trying to climb into bed gingerly so as not to awaken his wife, who was already sleeping.

"I tried to fall into bed like a leaf," he said. "But I'm a little too heavy for a leaf. As soon as I was in bed, my back stiffened up. When I woke up [Sunday] morning, it felt pretty stiff, but it felt fine to pitch."

Sherrill played catch with trainer Stan Conte when he arrived at Dodger Stadium, and it was determined that he was fine. He pitched two-thirds of an inning in that day's game against Detroit, then threw with Conte again Tuesday at Wrigley Field. He said he felt something whenever he extended his back.

While the injury probably wasn't severe enough to sideline Sherrill for two weeks, it does buy him time. He is expected to make a couple of minor league rehab appearances, which should give him a chance to find the mechanics he has been missing, really, since the start of spring training. He has a 7.36 ERA through 22 appearances this season.

"Just listening to [Torre] and listening to our training staff, we're going to go with the safe route," Sherrill said. "I don't want to try to throw through this thing and end up hurting something else."

The combination of moves leaves the Dodgers with an 11-man pitching staff, but Torre said that probably will last only until the team needs a fifth starter later this week.

Haeger hurt

Torre still hasn't named his fifth starter for Friday or Saturday, but it won't be Charlie Haeger. Torre said the knuckleballer suffered a mild foot injury throwing a ball to first base in his most recent minor league rehab appearance for Class A Inland Empire on Monday at Rancho Cucamonga -- he otherwise allowed two runs on four hits over six innings -- and will continue his rehab at least through the weekend.

Unless the Dodgers make a trade or bring up a pitcher from the minors, the assignment probably will go to rookie Carlos Monasterios or veteran Ramon Ortiz. But one possibility, especially if the Dodgers are going to add a 12th pitcher, is left-hander Scott Elbert, who has struggled for much of the season at Triple-A Albuquerque but has been solid in his last three starts [four earned runs over 16 1/3 innings] and is perfectly lined up to pitch on Friday.

Torre said he was leaning toward using that fifth starter on Friday night at Colorado as opposed to Saturday to give Hiroki Kuroda an extra day of rest. Kuroda would start against the Rockies on Saturday.

Farm notes

Three Dodgers minor leaguers were named either pitcher or player of the week for their respective leagues. They are Double-A Chattanooga left-hander Alberto Bastardo (Southern League), high Single-A Inland Empire outfielder Kyle Russell (California League) and low Single-A Great Lakes right-hander Will Savage (Midwest League).

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.