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Hanley Ramirez returns for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have been playing at a record-breaking pace for the past seven weeks, are getting reinforcements.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing nine games with a jammed right shoulder. Ramirez is batting .359 with 11 home runs, and his 1.050 OPS leads all National League players with a minimum of 200 plate appearances.

Ramirez spent 54 days over two stints on the disabled list for a torn thumb tendon and a strained left hamstring. The Dodgers feel he would be a prime MVP candidate were it not for the injuries. He has also played better-than-expected shortstop.

"When he plays, he's been unbelievable," manager Don Mattingly said.

Ramirez said earlier this week he still feels pain when he throws and when he fully extends his swing, but Mattingly said the trainers are convinced he's unlikely to do further damage to his shoulder by playing with it.

"From all standpoints, we felt like he was ready to play yesterday," Mattingly said. "He's been wanting to play for two days now. If you guys have watched [batting practice], he looks healthy as can be. He's throwing the ball across the infield. I mean, I don't know what else we can do. Something can always happen."

The Dodgers also could get a former All-Star closer in a couple of days. Mattingly hinted that former San Francisco Giants reliever Brian Wilson, who signed with the Dodgers two weeks ago, could join the team before Friday's game in Philadelphia. Wilson has allowed no runs and just one hit in four minor-league rehab appearances. The Dodgers are eying Wilson as a setup guy for closer Kenley Jansen.

"When we bring him up, we'll let you know," Mattingly said.

Asked if that meant he wasn't ready now, Mattingly said, "I didn't say he wasn't ready. We haven't activated him."

Also, outfielder Andre Ethier likely will return to the lineup Friday after missing two games with pain in his left calf. He was sent to an area hospital Tuesday to rule out a blood clot in the area where he was hit by a pitch on Aug. 4 in Chicago. None were found.

The Dodgers' 39-8 record since June 22 is the best in the majors over that span and is a franchise record for the modern era. The last team to sustain that kind of pace over 47 games was the 1951 New York Giants.