Officially, he was listed as day to day, although manager Don Mattingly said when he hears "oblique," he prepares for 20 days. Ethier was slightly more hopeful.
"Maybe this is one bullet we can dodge from somebody getting hurt this year," he said after the Dodgers' 3-0 loss to the Giants. "Maybe in a day or two I'll be back at it.
"I think getting shut out three in a row hurts more than this does. This is about as disappointed as I've ever been."
Ethier explained that he felt something when he took a checked swing on a 2-2 changeup from Tim Lincecum for a ball. He checked on the next pitch, a slider down and in for the walk, and to make sure he didn't get charged with a swing, recoiled his bat back quickly and felt a "cramp or a tight pinch" in his side "like you'd get from laughing."
He stayed in the game and was erased on Juan Rivera's double-play grounder.
"I told myself it would get going when I took warmups in the outfield, but Donnie said no," Ethier said. "It was mostly precautionary -- let's not make it worse."
Ethier, hitting .291 and the league leader in RBIs until last weekend, said he's never had a pulled oblique muscle and was told this one was unusual on the left side for a left-handed hitter. Hitters usually get oblique injuries on the side nearest the pitcher.
Now Ethier faces the prospect of joining Matt Kemp (strained hamstring) as a cheerleader from the sidelines, the Dodgers' one-two punch leaving the offense punchless.
"Any time you can't go out there and you're one of the guys they look at, you're not fulfilling your role," said Ethier, who played most of last year with a bum knee that required surgery. "Sometimes you don't feel well and you go out and play when a lot of guys are banged up, then all of a sudden this bites you. It's little things that are frustrating."
Teammate Jerry Hairston said now more than ever the Dodgers must play to the clubhouse motto.
"We have to just find a way," he said. "We can't sugarcoat it. It is what it is. Hopefully he just felt a little tweak. If not, we just find a way. You can't make excuses, not up here."