Ethier return depends on rehab stint

CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier is tentatively set to return to the team's lineup Monday night against Arizona, the opener of a 13-game homestand.

Ethier, who has a broken bone in the first knuckle of his right little finger, will first do a two-game rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque on Friday and Saturday at Memphis.

The key word, of course, being "tentatively."

"It's open," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "If he feels he needs more, we just want to make sure we get him back and he has no hesitation. It's a matter of what he can deal with and what he feels he can do. Whether he goes 0 for 10 or 5 for 10 [in the rehab], it's just a matter of what he feels he can deal with."

Ethier is wearing a tiny splint on the finger, recommended to the Dodgers' medical staff by Los Angeles Lakers trainer Gary Vitti.

The splint immobilizes the affected knuckle but allows full range of motion in the rest of the finger. Ethier took batting practice on the field with the rest of the team Tuesday and Wednesday -- the Dodgers didn't take BP before Thursday's afternoon game -- and appeared to be taking his normal swing.

"He has no issues taking BP outside," Torre said. "As far as what I saw with his swing, he was very free."

Ethier broke the bone in his finger taking batting practice in an indoor batting cage before a game at San Diego on May 14 and hasn't played since. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list four days later and is eligible to return Sunday, but Torre said he wanted to give Ethier a day to rest following the rehab stint.

Ethier's two-week absence already has cost him the lead in all three Triple Crown categories in the National League. He still would be the league's leading hitter at .392, but he no longer has enough plate appearances (3.1 per game played by the team) to qualify for the list.

However, he should make that up fairly quickly. If he comes back as scheduled on Monday, the Dodgers will have played 50 games, which would require 155 plate appearances. Ethier presently has 140 plate appearances.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.