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Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier could miss opening day because of herniated disk

Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier could miss opening day because of herniated disk
Andre Ethier has received a pain-killing epidural injection as treatment for a herniated disk in his lower back. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The opening-day status of Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier is in doubt after he received a pain-killing epidural injection Monday as treatment for a herniated disk in his lower back.

Ethier will not perform baseball activities for a week to 10 days. Manager Dave Roberts described the injury as mild, but suggested it would be tough for Ethier to be ready by April 3.

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After dealing with soreness in his back and hip for most of March, Ethier could not loosen his back before a game Sunday. He underwent an MRI on Monday. Roberts indicated Ethier felt "considerably better" after the injection. Ethier is expected to return to Camelback Ranch on Thursday.

Roberts insisted that the team would not rush Ethier. There was no reason to place excessive importance on April 3, he explained.

"We're just not trying to put so much emphasis on that," Roberts said. "And Andre understands that too. The No. 1 thing is we've got to get him back healthy and feeling good. So whenever that day is, whether it's prior to opening day or it's not, that's our goal."

The diagnosis is similar to the one Clayton Kershaw received last summer. Kershaw missed 2 1/2 months after aggravating his back while attempting to return. Roberts said Ethier's injury was "less severe."

"Talking to him today, he says he feels great," President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said. "He's optimistic about getting at-bats next week. But we basically have to read and react to the symptoms. We're not concerned long term. But we don't have a great feel yet on the time frame, in terms of opening day or not.

"We'll do everything we can to be cautious, yet get him back out there as soon as we can."

The Cactus League has not been kind to Ethier the past two seasons. He suffered a fractured leg last March and missed most of the season. This injury is less severe, but it also forces the Dodgers to use their outfield depth.

With Ethier down, Andrew Toles is likely to move into the starting role in left field. Toles might have been bound for the minors so he could receive daily at-bats, but now the team does not have that luxury.

Yasiel Puig is the starter in right field. Franklin Gutierrez can face left-handed pitchers, as can Scott Van Slyke. Trayce Thompson has hit well recently, but after missing a significant portion of 2016 because of a fracture in his back, he may be bound for triple-A Oklahoma City.

"Obviously, Dre was expected to be on our roster," Roberts said. "There's still opportunities. We have a lot of guys still in camp, and we're evaluating every day."

Seager returns

For the first time since tweaking his oblique and back on March 3, Corey Seager played in a game. He took three at-bats in a minor league game on a back field at Camelback Ranch. He went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts and a groundout. The results mattered little to him.

"It was nice to go full-go and feel nothing," Seager said.

Seager is scheduled to have Wednesday off, then play shortstop in a minor league game Thursday. It is unclear if he will appear in a Cactus League game before the team breaks camp next week. He chuckled when asked if new second baseman Logan Forsythe would accompany him against the minor leaguers.

"That would be cool, huh?" Seager said. "He probably wouldn't like that. But I would like it."

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Seager admitted that the lack of familiarity with Forsythe could cause some issues early in the season.

"Having a new guy, it's difficult to learn how he plays," Seager said. "The first month might be still a little bit of a learning curve. But we worked a bunch before [the injury]. So you understand how each other moves, at least, and where the ball's coming from, and how they act. It shouldn't be that big of a leap."

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes

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