Carl Crawford is finally -- really, it's true -- swinging the bat and could return as soon as next week, though after the All-Star break is more likely.
And then what?
Last year it was Crawford who seized the position, relegating Ethier to the bench in the second half. Crawford put up a slash line of .333/.374/.462 in the second half and stole 13 bases.
Now he's nearing his return, well aware of Mattingly's comments and says he's fine with it.
"There's nothing you can say to that," Crawford said. "Dre's [Ethier] been playing really well. Dre supports me, I support him. It's just what we have to do. It's for the team right now and I understand that. You won't hear me gripe about it. I'm going to support the guys. It's Don's decision. When it's my turn, it's my turn."
Crawford, 34 next month, was back taking batting practice with the team Friday at Dodger Stadium after having spent the last two months rehabbing his side at the team's training facility in Phoenix. The oblique injury has taken twice as long to heal as originally projected.
"It's just frustrating because I wanted to try to play a season when I was healthy," he said. "I got hurt again, unfortunately. Then it was an injury that has made me take so much time. Frustrating, but at the same time, I couldn't do anything about it. Just try to get back strong and healthy and come out and play."
Despite not having played since April 27, Crawford appears in excellent condition.
"One thing I tried to do was keep my legs strong, make sure I could still run," he said. "My legs feel good. I feel like I can steal a base at any time, I can run down balls in the outfield. The only thing I need to do now is just play and swing the bat."
Crawford started appearing in rehab games this week for Class A Rancho Cucamonga, but had to leave Wednesday's game after being hit on the left ankle by a pitch. He said the ankle is fine and he's next scheduled to play Sunday in a rehab game for triple-A Oklahoma City.
He hopes to join the team next week to get back before the All-Star break, which starts July 13.
"I would love to, that's what I'm aiming for," he said. "I can't tell you when I'm going to be back but I'll definitely try to do everything I can to get back before the break and just try to help contribute. Whatever the team needs."
That's the smart thing to say, of course, but he was more outspoken last summer when he was coming off the DL after a sprained ankle and complained about how management was utilizing the outfielders: "They tell us one thing and something else happens. We can't go by what they say."
This year Crawford has been out much longer, and Ethier (.270/.350/.479, with 10 home runs) has been playing well. And this time Mattingly has been clear Ethier will continue to be his primary left fielder when Crawford returns, which the manager said is likely to be after the break.