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Andre Ethier takes batting practice on field, hopeful for 2016 return

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Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier took batting practice on the field before Tuesday night's game at Dodger Stadium for the first time since fracturing his right tibia during spring training. While an important and necessary step in his rehabilitation, there is still no timetable for Ethier's return.

It has been a long recovery for Ethier, who broke his leg on March 18 by fouling a ball off his right shin. The initial diagnosis was 10-14 weeks, but he's been out over four months now.

"I've basically done two offseasons and Spring Trainings in a matter of seven months," he said on Tuesday.

Ethier has been able to run while in a harness, to relieve pressure off his leg. When running on the field, he estimated he is currently at 50 percent.

He is also wearing a new custom leg guard, similar to the shin guard he was wearing when he broke his leg, only this one is much larger. The guard, Ethier said, is filled with a reaction foam that lessens the impact on his leg when struck.

"I’ve thrown balls off it to see how the pain and tolerance level gets. It still hurts," Ethier said, while also noting that now when he feels pain or discomfort it usually subsides within minutes.

Still, there is no timetable for his return, other than that he still hopes to return in 2016. Manager Dave Roberts was confident he'd have Ethier back at some point this season, even if he didn't have a date.

"When that return is, I have no idea. But he's hopeful," Roberts said. "It will happen this year."

"There's playing for the right reasons, and there is playing dumb," Ethier said. "We don't want to be in the position where if we come back in a couple weeks then re-injure it, and need surgery to correct it. We'd be back in a 3-4 month recovery process, and possibly affect next season."

Despite the long layoff, Ethier has managed to stay sane in an unexpected way.

"I had an unfair advantage since at the beginning of this thing because they told me to stay home," Ethier explained. "I really should have known that the reason they said that was beacuse this was going to be a long rehab.

"I've been home and had a chance to do some things for the first time, like watching my youngest kid graduate preschool, take my kids to things. I would normally never be able to do that."