Andre Ethier could rejoin Dodgers’ lineup sooner than expected

Reporting from Chicago -- Andre Ethier, the leading hitter in the major leagues, could be back in the Dodgers’ lineup as soon as Sunday.

“As of right now, there’s no indication why not,” Ethier said Tuesday, after taking live batting practice for the first time since he suffered a broken little finger 10 days ago.

The Dodgers had projected Ethier would sit out up to six weeks, but a custom splint has protected the finger so well that he can swing with authority and without discomfort. He would wear the splint when he returns.

Ethier leads the majors with a .392 batting average. Even though he has not played since May 14, he ranks second in the National League with 38 runs batted in and third in the league with 11 home runs.

Ethier is eligible to be activated from the disabled list Sunday, but Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said that might be “a little soon.” Torre also said a minor league rehabilitation assignment might not be necessary. The Dodgers tentatively plan to have Ethier face Vicente Padilla in a simulated game Saturday and proceed from there.

Sherrill on DL

The Dodgers put reliever George Sherrill on the disabled list, clearing a roster spot for shortstop Rafael Furcal. The team activated Furcal and returned him to the leadoff spot.

Sherrill said he strained his back while getting into bed on Saturday night, rolling and reaching so as not to disturb his sleeping wife. Sherrill pitched Sunday, after receiving treatment. Torre said the Dodgers all but decided to put him on the disabled list Monday, although Sherrill threw in the bullpen Tuesday and said he was not focused on the Dodgers’ need to find a spot for Furcal.

“I guess that nicely coincided,” Sherrill said. “It could be an extra reason why they’re taking an extra precaution.”

Sherrill gave up six earned runs in his first five appearances this season. He has given up six in 17 appearances since then, lowering his earned-run average from 16.20 to 7.36. He said the increased workload as a setup man as opposed to a closer might have played a role in his struggles, as well as the shorter off-season that resulted from the first postseason play of his career.

“I’m not trying to make excuses,” he said. “I’ve stunk.”

Stars and such

The Dodgers had no leaders in the initial round of All-Star balloting, although Ethier ranked fourth among NL outfielders, trailing Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers and Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino of the Philadelphia Phillies. Since the Dodgers traded Mike Piazza in 1998, their only elected All-Star starters have been Jeff Kent (2005) and Russell Martin (2007). . . . Torre would not say who would start Friday but said Charlie Haeger would not. He said Haeger would remain on his rehabilitation assignment. . . . The Dodgers are suing comedian Jon Lovitz and 100 other fans, according to the Associated Press. The lawsuit alleges the group agreed to buy three Dugout Club seats from 2008-10 but refused to make the $95,400 payment this season.

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