LOS ANGELES -- Hanley Ramirez is inching closer to starting a Minor League rehab assignment, but the Dodgers are being extra cautious with the shortstop's strained left hamstring.
Ramirez ran curves, took batting practice and fielded ground balls before Friday's game against the Cardinals. He said he's only running at 85 percent and will test his hamstring while running the bases on Saturday.
Ramirez said he will appear in rehab games with Class A Rancho Cucamonga "soon."
The Dodgers don't want to rush Ramirez back because of what happened to Matt Kemp last season, when the outfielder returned from a hamstring injury only to go back on the disabled list after two days.
"They know what's happened before to guys that try to come back early and it didn't work," Ramirez said. "[Kemp] told me you have to be 100 percent and don't try to come back early. By the time I get back, I want to make it all the way to the end of the season."
Ramirez returned from a torn ligament in his right thumb sooner than expected in April, but played just four games before straining his hamstring running the bases in San Francisco on May 3.
"It [stinks]," Ramirez said. "It's almost June and I've only played four games. That's never happened in my career. They support me and I'm trying everything I can to stay healthy. It just happens. I've got to stay mentally strong, keep working and come back and help this team in some ballgames."
Kasten defends Mattingly's critical comments
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers president Stan Kasten on Friday defended manager Don Mattingly's decision to publicly criticize the club's play during its recent six-game road trip.
Before Wednesday's game in Milwaukee, Mattingly said he believed this team was not as mentally tough as last year's squad, despite additions in talent.
Kasten said he agreed with Mattingly's attempt to spark the team with his comments.
"I wasn't unhappy to see it," Kasten said before Friday's game against the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium. "I didn't mind that Donnie thought he needed to do something to light a fire. It didn't bother me a bit."
Mattingly stressed that he was not criticizing individual players, but rather the overall performance of the last-place Dodgers.
"Guys in that room who play the game right don't have a problem with anything I'm saying," Mattingly said on Friday. "I can't even come close to backing off anything I said the other day. I feel exactly that way. I've been talking like this with these guys the whole time."
Kasten said he does not think Mattingly's job is in jeopardy at the moment.
"I like the team we've put together," Kasten said. "I like the staff that we have. I do expect us to succeed this year. I do expect this to turn around, and because of that I expect Donnie to be here for a long time. I understand there's another side to that, if things don't go well. I don't look at things that way. I choose to believe we're going to be fine, and that means the manager and everyone else will be fine."
But what if the Dodgers are unable to turn things around?
"I don't know what the future is going to be," Kasten said. "If things go bad, could there be a change? There may be, there may not be. I can't tell anyone how things will be in the future."
Ethier looks to put Mattingly's comments behind him
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier said he does not want to become a distraction following manager Don Mattingly's criticism this week of the team's play.
Ethier was benched Wednesday in Milwaukee, when Mattingly said he wanted to field a team "that is going to fight, to compete the whole day."
Ethier, who spoke to Mattingly on Wednesday, said he would again seek out feedback from his manager, but doesn't want it to drag on.
"I don't think we need anything else to pop up amongst all the things we've got going on here anyways," Ethier said before Friday's game against the Cardinals. "We know it's stressful and intense enough to be going through what this team is going through and figuring out how to get things going in the right direction. We don't need to create another issue."
Mattingly said on Friday that his intention was not to single Ethier out.
"It's not just about Andre," Mattingly said. "It's about us as a team, the way I feel like we should play the game. It's not about Andre."
Still, Ethier said he reached out to teammates for feedback on anything he needs to change in his approach to the game.
"I just asked them what I can do to better myself," Ethier said. "It's a grind every day to show up and do this. You're not going to feel your best. You're not going to feel the greatest. You've got to figure out a way to tough it through and play that game. Sometimes you're not going to look your best, not going to look the greatest. It doesn't mean you're not going out there and playing hard. I try to do my best. It's tough to do on a daily basis."
A. Ellis stays in game after collision at plate
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said he sustained only a bruised right forearm in a collision at home plate with Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay on Friday night.
Jay barreled into Ellis in the top of the second inning, beating Nick Punto's relay throw and scoring the first run of the game. Ellis remained on the ground for several minutes as Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and team trainers checked on him, but he remained in the game.
"It was a good, clean baseball play," Ellis said after the Dodgers were shut out, 7-0, at Dodger Stadium. "I wish the ball would have been a tick earlier and we could have gotten him out. You've got to stay there and protect home plate."
Ellis said he's been involved in at least two other collisions at the plate during his career.
"It's part of the job, part of the game and if the same thing comes up tomorrow, I'll be right there blocking home plate," he said.
Ellis said he doesn't think the collision will prevent him from playing on Saturday.
"I'm planning on playing and being in the lineup tomorrow, as far as I'm concerned," he said.
Mattingly said he's worried about how Ellis' body will respond on Saturday, but understands the situation could have been worse.
"He hung in there almost to a fault," Mattingly said. "He didn't really give Jay a place to go. It really even looked like Jay kind of pulled up just a touch, he could have really cleaned him up right there."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.