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Ethier ready to make return after rehab stint

RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. -- Back on the field for the first time since straining his left oblique muscle on June 28, Andre Ethier was held hitless in a pair of rehabilitation games with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday and Thursday.

Although he failed to record a hit in either game, Ethier's return to action is a promising sign for the Dodgers, who are entering the second half with their two top sluggers healthy and expected to be in the lineup on Friday against the Padres.

"I really tried hard not to go on the disabled list and pushed hard to get back for that Arizona series," Ethier said. "But I think the wiser heads prevailed and made sure me and [Matt Kemp] and the rest of the team was a whole once we start the second half."

On Thursday, Ethier went 0-for-2 with an RBI while playing six innings in right field. He hit into an inning-ending double play in the first and drew a walk in the fourth. Ethier was most pleased with a sixth-inning RBI groundout to first after fouling off a number of hard hit balls in the at-bat.

"I felt good," said Ethier, who went 0-for-2 with a strikeout Wednesday. "I went up there and actually got some opportunities to see some pitches off a righty tonight. As each at-bat went along, I felt a little more comfortable. I didn't swing at any bad pitches for the most part, took a walk and got the rhythm back."

Although he said it's in his nature to want to get a hit each time he's at the plate, Ethier, who has been on the DL retroactive to June 28, made sure to take a patient approach not wanting to come away with only three swings in three at-bats. Expected to play seven innings, the right fielder's night ended early after those three plate appearances were accomplished.

Unlike his teammate Kemp, who played a rehab stint with the Quakes last week, Ethier said it didn't feel weird being back in a live game. However, he did note the challenges that come with being out for an extended period of time.

"You don't realize how quick you lose that edge and that speed of the game," Ethier said. "Once you are out there playing every day, you might get a day off or even two in a row, but when you have quite a bit of layoff, the speed is tough to catch back up to again."

Now, it's back to Dodger Stadium for Ethier, who has eagerly been awaiting his return to Los Angeles' lineup after putting off the DL as long as he could in hopes of returning before the break.

Ethier said he plans to be back for the long haul after taking a cautious approach and making sure he didn't return too early.

"Any time you injure a muscle like that, especially one that is so important to any part of your game -- hitting, pitching and even anything you do in the field -- it was one where extra time was needed so it mended the right way," Ethier said. "For me, it was making sure we have our team as a whole in the second half."

Los Angeles Dodgers, Andre Ethier