LOS ANGELES -- There are a lot of reasons for Don Mattingly to be down these days. The manager has witnessed his team's lead in the National League West disappear, and heading into Thursday's game, the Dodgers hadn't scored in 30 innings, their longest stretch since 1996.
Regardless, Mattingly was optimistic and in a good mood hours before first pitch on Thursday, largely thanks to a number of players on the mend.
He said there is a good chance the Dodgers get Mark Ellis back before the All-Star break and he is hopeful Matt Kemp will return quickly afterward. The good news about Andre Ethier's strained left oblique and reliever Javy Guerra's expected return soon from injury -- he was fielding grounders from the mound Thursday -- has Mattingly confident the Dodgers' recent struggles won't last.
"Within a short period of time, we're going to see our lineup back together if everything goes in that direction," Mattingly said.
Without Ellis, Kemp and Ethier, the Dodgers are missing their 2-3-4 hitters in the lineup. On Thursday, callup Elian Herrera, veteran Juan Rivera and struggling James Loney were penciled in those spots.
However, Mattingly is hopeful with a number of injured guys healing. Kemp and Ellis have been working out together, and Mattingly said Ellis is close while Kemp is not far behind. Guerra is scheduled to throw a simulated game on Friday and Ethier isn't expected to hit the disabled list.
"We're getting ready to get some pretty big pieces of our club back in the mix," Mattingly said. "And I think at the end of the day, we've got to be optimistic."
No swelling in oblique as Ethier avoids trip to DL
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers got some much-needed good news on Thursday, when an MRI on Andre Ethier's strained left oblique showed no swelling.
The right fielder is listed as day to day and likely will avoid a trip to the disabled list.
"Yesterday I assumed we were going to be in a DL situation," an optimistic manager Don Mattingly said. "But really the docs looked at it and didn't see any swelling, so it really couldn't be any better."
Mattingly, who originally prepared for Ethier to be out about 20 games, added the team can't afford day to day to mean sitting around waiting for 10 days, and if it got to that point then the team would re-evaluate.
Ethier strained his oblique muscle on a checked swing in the first inning of Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Giants in San Francisco. Ethier, who signed an $85 million extension earlier this month, is hitting .291 with 10 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Ethier, who was hopeful he could be back in a couple days Wednesday night, didn't hit on Thursday. Test results showed no reason for a platelet-rich plasma injection, and Mattingly said he's not sure what the approach is going to be in the next few days. However, he remained upbeat and said the news was as good as it could be.
Coaches help Dodgers prepare for Mets' Dickey
LOS ANGELES -- How will the Dodgers prepare to beat Mets knuckleball specialist R.A. Dickey for their Friday night game?
Coaches Tim Wallach and Trey Hillman are offering to throw knuckleballs to any hitter requesting during batting practice.
Hillman said that's what he did for the entire lineup when he managed in Japan against the occasional knuckleballer.
"I don't think you ever want to see that thing," manager Don Mattingly said. "Honestly, guys don't really like hitting off it. At the end of the day, we're going to have to [Friday].
"We saw him last year, and he's really good. He's different because he throws it hard. He gives you a different feel up there. It's not the Charlie Hough, Phil Niekro kind of slow dancer. He's more of hard knuckleballer. [Tim] Wakefield threw a harder one than those other guys and I thought he was tougher to face of those three."
Wallach, who messes around with knuckleballs while playing catch, actually took them into games with success when, as a starting third baseman for the Expos, he was pressed into blowout relief duties twice.
"I got good hitters out with my knuckleball, like Ron Gant and Will Clark," Wallach said. "If they request it, it's always good to see a variation of it."
Truck breakdown 'icing' on Dodgers' tough trip
LOS ANGELES -- It appeared things couldn't get much worse for the Dodgers after a 1-8 road trip that was capped with three straight shutouts from the Giants and news that Andre Ethier strained his left oblique. That was until the team's equipment truck broke down, temporarily grounding the team at the airport Wednesday night.
"It was perfect," manager Don Mattingly said with a laugh. "It was the icing for our trip."
The truck breaking down, coupled with weight and computer issues, delayed the team from leaving San Francisco at its scheduled departure time.
Now at home, Mattingly is excited to be off the road and back in familiar territory.
"That trip didn't do real good for us," he said. "It's always nice to get home and change the scenery. We'll see what happens."
Dodgers bring Van Slyke back, option De Jesus
LOS ANGELES -- In need of an extra outfielder with Andre Ethier day to day with a strained left oblique, the Dodgers recalled Scott Van Slyke and optioned infielder Ivan De Jesus to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Van Slyke got the call Wednesday night and on Thursday he was in the Dodgers' lineup, slated to bat fifth and play right field. He batted .194 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs in 17 games when he was called up earlier this season.
"I was only here for two weeks last time, but it feels like home here with all the guys," the laid-back Van Slyke said. "I'm glad to be back."
Van Slyke said he learned the importance of making adjustments during his first stint with the Dodgers after realizing big league pitchers don't pitch the same way an entire at-bat like they do in Triple-A. After being sent back down, he worked on his two-strike approach and being more aggressive early in counts.
De Jesus, an infielder, was batting .273 with three doubles and four RBIs in 23 games with the Dodgers.