CHICAGO -- The way injured outfielder Andre Ethier was launching balls out of Wrigley Field in batting practice Tuesday leaves the Dodgers optimistic he'll be back in right field by next week.
Ethier has made dramatic progress in his recovery from a broken finger because of a splint that immobilizes the broken joint in the little finger of his right hand. He was able to catch, swing off a tee and hit soft-toss over the weekend, but Tuesday was his first day hitting live batting practice.
When Ethier was injured while taking batting practice May 15, the prognosis for his return was anywhere from two to six weeks. At the time, he was leading the league in all three Triple Crown categories -- batting average, home runs and RBIs.
"He's doing a lot of things we didn't anticipate this early," said manager Joe Torre. "We want it to feel normal. The last thing we want is to get him into bad habits. If it's uncomfortable, you know he'll have trouble doing it."
Ethier is eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list Monday. He is scheduled to participate in a simulated game Saturday in Denver with Vicente Padilla, who is also on the DL, pitching.
If it goes well for Padilla, who has been on the DL since April 23 with an inflamed radial nerve, he could be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment of about three starts.
And if the simulated game goes well for Ethier, he might not need any Minor League rehab assignment and be activated Monday.