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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier returned from the disabled list and to the team's starting lineup after sitting out the last 15 games with a broken right pinkie finger.
He was reinstated from the disabled list before the game against Arizona, and received a loud cheer walking to the plate the first time before grounding out to end the first inning. Two balls went over Ethier's head in the top of the inning, including Justin Upton's two-run homer in which the right fielder hit the wall in a futile attempt to make the catch.
Ethier ended the game, which the Dodgers won 5-4, hitless in four at-bats."It's timing," manager Joe Torre said after the game. "His rhythm isn't there right now. I thought he was trying to pull the ball a little bit more."
The Dodgers went 10-5 in Ethier's absence and are second in the NL West behind San Diego.
Ethier will play with a splint on his pinkie finger and use a foam pad on his bat to cushion the finger. He said he changes the splint three times a day because it gets wet from sweat and becomes smelly. Ethier also said he doesn't know how long he'll have to wear the splint.
"I just tried it out and it looked like it would work out," he said before the game. "I just need a little extra padding to cushion it. It's still broken, but it's just not as painful."
Ethier said he still felt some soreness in the finger, where he has a tiny fracture in the first knuckle, especially when he banged his hand into the wall chasing a ball during his rehab. Other than that, though, he should be fine, and Torre said he feels no need to take any special precautions with Ethier.
"I don't think so," Torre said before the game. "I saw him take batting practice in Chicago for the first time last week, and I thought I would see some kind of a guarded swing, and I didn't. I know it wasn't a game, but his swing itself didn't seem to bother him."
A doctor told Ethier it would take 4-6 weeks for it to heal completely.
"It doesn't hurt when you swing," he said. "It's more from the glove when you open it up."
The right fielder made two rehab appearances with Triple-A Albuquerque, hitting .600 with four runs scored and two RBIs on the road at Memphis.
Ethier, who had an Isotopes cap in his locker as a souvenir from his brief rehab assignment, broke the finger taking swings in an indoor batting cage before the Dodgers' game at San Diego on May 14 and was placed on the disabled list four days after that. At the time, he was either leading or tied for the National League lead in all three Triple Crown categories. During his DL stint, he lost his home run and RBI leads. He no longer has enough plate appearances to qualify among the league leaders in hitting, but he should be able to make up that gap within the first couple of weeks.
It was Ethier's first time on the disabled list in his five-year career.
As expected, outfielder Xavier Paul was optioned back to Albuquerque to clear a roster spot for Ethier. Paul was recalled when Ethier was shelved.Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.