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Andre Ethier making slow progress as time ticks away

LOS ANGELES -- Injured Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier hit on the field before Tuesday’s game, but it remains in doubt if the veteran will return this season from a spiral fracture in his lower right leg.

Ethier injured himself in spring training when he fouled a ball off his leg just as it was twisting during the swing process. He was expected to miss no more than 10 to 14 weeks, but that timetable has long since passed.

“It’s just another step,” Ethier said. “I don’t think we’re saying it’s anything significant or not. Right now we’re trying to take leaps right now because we know what the [season schedule] is. If we can take big leaps and stay strong through them, that’s the right direction to be going.”

Ethier is even limited while running, saying he has only progressed to 90-foot sprints at about 50-percent effort, with no rounding of the bases.

He remains certain he can return to make a contribution this season, but time is running out.

“I wouldn’t be going through what I’m going through every day if I didn’t believe and think I was coming back,” Ethier said. “I think I owe it to the guys. They’ve been very encouraging. The work they’ve done to put themselves in the position they’re in, I think for those of us looking from the outside, has been a remarkable job. I’d like to get out there and join them and figure out a way to help them.”

Using a custom-built plastic and high-density foam guard on his leg, Ethier hopes he can now speed up the recovery process. But the season is already 100 games old, leaving just 62 to play.

“With the whole thing, we’re trying to stay optimistic,” Ethier said. “There is only so much you can rehab with a fractured bone. I feel like I’ve gotten as strong as I can possibly get to outmuscle that. Once the bone takes over, that’s where we had the flare-up. But I think we’re in a good spot right now.”