- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said shortstop Hanley Ramirez and center fielder Andre Ethier would be back in the starting lineup for Game 6 of the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.
Ramirez, who has a hairline fracture on one of his ribs, was taken out of the past two games in the seventh inning after feeling intense pain in the area. He missed Game 2 along with Ethier, who has a microfracture above his left ankle, but both played in all three games in Los Angeles.
"Andre, I expect to play," Mattingly said Thursday. "I think he felt probably as good yesterday as he's felt since coming back. He just seems to get a little bit stronger as far as being out on the field. We checked on him late. We thought about if we were going to defend for him late. We were comfortable with what we were seeing, and he was comfortable also. So I expect him, for sure, to be able to play.
"I expect the same thing from Hanley. I think he'll try to play. He's been trying to play every day. I think he'll do the same as far as going out there and doing the best he can for us, and we'll just make an assessment tomorrow as we do the lineup."
Despite having to take Ramirez out early the past two games and the shortstop going 0-for-6 at the plate with four strikeouts, Mattingly said he didn't think Ramirez was hurting himself or the team by playing injured.
"We don't feel like he's getting any worse," Mattingly said. "It's just a matter of how the game goes for him. The first day, it seemed like he was able to stay loose and be comfortable the whole game. The second day there in L.A. was probably the worst day as far as feeling everything, and he just didn't look comfortable at all on the field. Yesterday was OK."
Mattingly felt that with Wednesday's game being a day game that he was taken out of early and the next game not being until Friday night, Ramirez would have close to three days to feel better and play like he did in Game 3, when he went 2-for-4 with an RBI.
"I'm hoping this gives him a little bit of relief," Mattingly said. "But I do think it's something that until he stops actually trying to swing a bat and twist and things like that, this thing's not going to fully heal. Hopefully it's getting a little bit better. He's not doing something that it's all of a sudden going to get worse. But I do feel like it's not going to fully heal as long as he's swinging the bat."
Mattingly said he wouldn't play Ramirez and Ethier if he didn't think they could produce. He said he will continue monitoring both players and won't hesitate to use Nick Punto instead of Ramirez and Skip Schumaker instead of Ethier as he has already done in this series.
"If he says, 'Oh, I'll go out there, but I don't feel like I can do anything,' then we're going to have to make a decision," Mattingly said. "I look at Nick, and he's capable of swinging the bat and getting hits and doing some things on the field too. We've seen that through the course of the season. So Hanley, a lot like Andre, he's got to be able to feel like he can do something. Even though he hasn't gotten any hits, he's had a couple of swings that looked more like himself. Obviously, not a hundred percent like himself, but better."
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