LOS ANGELES -- Andre Ethier said he is hoping to be able to play Sunday or Monday, but he was still sore on Friday as he recovers from a strained left oblique muscle. The Dodgers right fielder said he'll play when he feels good, and he's going to be cautious because he doesn't want the injury to linger.

Ethier was on the field playing catch before Friday's game, but he remained out of the lineup as Scott Van Slyke continued to replace him in right field.

Manager Don Mattingly said after talking with team trainer Sue Falsone that the team is going to play it by ear.

"Day to day means day to day with him as far as how he is feeling and if he can go side to side," Mattingly said. "How he progresses depends on him."

Mattingly said the team can't afford to have Ethier come back too soon and then have his recovery take a step backward. If that were the case and it becomes seven or eight days of recovering, a trip to the disabled list might need to be considered.

"We have the days during the All-Star Game, so when he's ready to play, we're all for it," Mattingly said. "But he needs to be ready to play when that happens."

Ellis to begin four-day rehab stint on Saturday

LOS ANGELES -- A month ahead of schedule, second baseman Mark Ellis will begin a four-day rehab stint Saturday with Class A Rancho Cucamonga with hopes of making his return from the disabled list on Thursday, when the Dodgers take on the D-backs.

Ellis, who underwent emergency surgery May 19 to relieve pressure from swelling in his lower left leg after a take-out slide by St. Louis baserunner Tyler Greene, plans to DH the whole game on Saturday, followed by playing five innings and then two seven-inning games. After taking a day off, he is expected to join the Dodgers in Arizona.

"When you are in the hospital for five days, you don't have a lot of good thoughts going on through your head," Ellis said. "But once we started doing rehab, everything came along pretty quickly."

At first, the second baseman thought he would be sidelined until Aug. 1. But now he said can do everything on the field comfortably.

"I don't want to jinx it, but I never would have thought I would be playing rehab games before the All-Star break," said Ellis, who added he feels guilty not being able to help the team while hurt.

He said he isn't worried about getting hits while rehabbing at Rancho Cucamonga -- where he'll likely be joined by reliever Javy Guerra on Sunday -- but rather will focus on seeing as many pitches as possible.

Manager Don Mattingly said he didn't think his second baseman would be back this early either, especially because there were fears that he could possibly need another knee surgery once he was healthy.

For Mattingly, the return of Ellis means consistency at a position and spot in the lineup that has created a snowball effect of shuffling players around. It also means an improvement in both defense and leadership.

"If you hit it to Mark Ellis, you are out," Mattingly said. "Having that same guy there 90 percent of the time, he wasn't going to play every day, but having that guy at second and up the middle making plays and being in the right spot, it's almost like a coach on the field."

Dodgers to work Derby into Kemp's rehab plan

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are expected to get Mark Ellis and Andre Ethier back in the next week, and they are hopeful to get Matt Kemp back soon after the All-Star break to join them in the lineup.

Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp has another round of testing on his strained left hamstring until he starts a rehab stint, but he said the center fielder will still be able to compete in the State Farm Home Run Derby.

"The plan right now is that it would be part of what he's doing," said Mattingly, who added Kemp should be ready for rehab games before the All-Star break. "We're going to try to build it into the program."

The Home Run Derby can be seen on ESPN at 5 p.m. PT on July 9. The All-Star Game is on FOX at 5 p.m. on July 10.