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LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier returned to the starting lineup on Monday night against the San Diego Padres, one day after meeting privately with manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti to clear the air in the wake of comments Ethier made to the Los Angeles Times over the weekend that seemed to imply he was being forced to play through a knee injury against his wishes.
Ethier later backtracked on those comments, saying he was the one whose decision it was to keep playing despite the fact his right knee probably will need postseason surgery.
Mattingly then made a comment following Sunday's game against the Colorado Rockies -- a game Ethier sat out, but he was on deck to pinch hit when it ended -- that seemed to suggest Ethier's playing time might be sporadic going forward because of questions as to whether he could do further damage to the knee.
After reinserting Ethier into the lineup on Monday, Mattingly said that isn't a concern.
"We're not going to do any damage to it," Mattingly said before the game. "We're not taking a chance at tearing any ligaments."
Ethier, who addressed the matter with reporters on Sunday, had three hits and an RBI while batting fifth in the Dodgers' 4-1 win over the Padres. He declined to discuss the situation with reporters before the game, saying, "There's nothing to talk about."
Dodgers trainer Stan Conte also declined to comment, leaving Mattingly to address the situation that erupted Sunday.
"I got to go by what he tells me in all my conversations," said Mattingly, who had said he felt "blindsided" by the comments in the Times column. "There's been no talk of him wanting to be done."
With the Dodgers mired near the bottom of the NL West, Mattingly was asked why Ethier isn't shut down now.
"I'm fine with that if that's what everybody wants to do," the rookie manager said. "It's always his choice."
Ethier entered Monday batting .286 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs in 127 games, and had a 30-game hitting streak early in the season, but has slumped since the All-Star break. He has not committed an error all season.
"It hasn't been the year he's capable of, but it's not been horrible," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said the Dodgers will give rookie right-hander Nathan Eovaldi one more start before moving him to the bullpen for the rest of the season to limit his innings. Eovaldi, who started against the Rockies on Sunday, will pitch on Friday night in Atlanta.
His replacement in the rotation isn't known yet, but whoever it is will be called up in time to start a makeup game in Pittsburgh on Thursday, the day active rosters can be expanded to anywhere from 26 to 40 players. The most logical candidate is right-hander John Ely, but he pitched five innings for Triple-A Albuquerque on Sunday and thus isn't lined up for Thursday, and he also has given up 12 runs over eight innings in his past two starts.
With one open spot on their 40-man roster and five different pitchers they could move to the 60-day disabled list, the Dodgers could call up just about anybody in the Isotopes' rotation. Both Dana Eveland (12-8, 4.38 ERA) and Randy Keisler (7-7, 4.97) have big league experience. Keisler, 35, has been the better of the two lately and is better lined up for Thursday after pitching seven shutout innings against Round Rock on Friday.
Mattingly also said shortstop Dee Gordon, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since Aug. 12 with a bruised right shoulder and is scheduled to conclude his three-game rehabilitation assignment with advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday, won't be activated until the roster expands on Thursday. That will save the Dodgers from having to demote a player to the minors to make room for him.
Both Mattingly and Conte said infielder Juan Uribe, who has been on the 15-day DL since July 30 with what is now being called a sports hernia, could face season-ending surgery, although that remains the last option. The hope for now is that Uribe, who already is throwing, hitting and taking ground balls with no pain, can increase his running to 100 percent without pain, at which point he will be sent on a minor league rehab assignment and hopefully be activated sometime this season.Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.