PHOENIX -- While we await word on the potential activation of Matt Kemp before Monday's series opener against the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers have several other players getting closer to returning, including Hanley Ramirez. The shortstop hit off a tee and did fielding exercises on Monday for the first time since he last played Thursday.
Ramirez left Thursday's game in the seventh inning with what was determined to be an irritated nerve in his back, something he dealt with in Miami in 2011. Ramirez got a cortisone shot Friday and was unavailable for the remainder of the weekend series against the Giants.
"Every day gets better," said Ramirez, who said he didn't know when he would be ready to return to the lineup.
"I don't know the plan. I hope they tell me," he joked.
That plan began Monday with hitting off a tee and doing fielding exercises with Stan Conte, the Dodgers' director of medical services.
"Hanley is starting to do some baseball stuff today," manager Don Mattingly said. "If that goes good, Stan will plan accordingly on how to advance him."
Nick Punto starts at shortstop for the Dodgers on Monday.
- Andre Ethier was still in a walking boot in the clubhouse before the game. With his ankle injury, it's highly unlikely he will see action as a pinch hitter Monday night. "Dre is getting better, but he's still not able to do anything today. He's still a few days away," said Mattingly.
- Carl Crawford is out of the lineup again with back tightness, and his status remains day-to-day. "It doesn't sound like [he'd be available to pinch hit], unless he would loosen up as the game went on," Mattingly said. "It's day to day, we don't know how he'll come in tomorrow. He could be feeling perfect."
- Part of why Nick Buss is starting over Scott Van Slyke is that Buss bats left-handed against the right-handed Trevor Cahill. But Van Slyke also is dealing with what Mattingly called "a little side thing," with a cramp in his rib cage.
- Chad Billingsley, Scott Elbert and Shawn Tolleson, all on the 60-day disabled list, joined the Dodgers from rehabbing at Camelback Ranch in nearby Glendale.
- Jose Dominguez, also on the 60-day DL, will throw a bullpen session on Tuesday. He is the longest of long shots to join the Dodgers' playoff roster, but at the very least could be an extra arm added for the final week or so of the season. Dominguez last pitched on July 22, so the earliest he could be activated is Saturday in San Diego. "He's getting to the point where he's able to throw a pen, so that's down the road a little bit. But it's been a while," Mattingly said.
- The Dodgers last had an off day on Sept. 5 and don't have another off day until Sept. 23. Mattingly said he still plans to use Stephen Fife for a spot start to give the rest of the starting rotation an extra day of rest, but haven't yet picked a date. Mattingly said clinching the division beforehand wasn't a prerequisite to Fife getting a start. "There have been discussions, it's just how and when," Mattingly said. "We still want to protect our guys, that's the biggest thing we have to do. We're still talking about it."
- Triple-A Albuquerque manager Lorenzo Bundy has joined the Dodgers' coaching staff for the final two weeks of the regular season.