ANAHEIM -- With Matt Kemp and his second recovery from a left hamstring strain, it is one step up, stand still, another step up. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly pointed out on Sunday that his superstar center fielder was feeling a little achy but that it was not a concern or roadblock.
"We're still kind of wait and see," Mattingly said. "We're adding things to do, and it's kind of a reaction to how he does with that. [On Saturday] he was kind of sore. We don't look at it as a setback. It's part of doing more stuff. He's been getting after it pretty good. Since it's Matt, we talk about every inch of it."
The Dodgers are 23-12 when Kemp starts, something he hasn't done since going on the disabled list for a second time on May 31. Sunday's Interleague finale against the Angels is the 38th game he will have missed, with Tony Gwynn and Elian Herrera getting most of the action in center in his absence. The Dodgers are 20-17 without their best player on the field.
The No. 3 hitter isn't the only major component missing from the lineup. No. 2 hitter Mark Ellis, out since May 19, also is rebounding from a lower left leg injury.
"It's the same thing with Mark, getting strength and flexibility back in the ankle," Mattingly said. "It's different with Matt. You can't anticipate how a hamstring's going to react to speed."
The Dodgers are 22-11 when Ellis, whose skills are subtle yet vital, starts at second and bats second. Without him, with Herrera as the main stand-in, the club is 21-18.
Abreu leads way for Dodgers' valuable bench
ANAHEIM -- A versatile bench filled with veteran role players is more essential in the National League game, with its late-game maneuvering, than in the American League with its designated hitter. The Dodgers have loaded manager Don Mattingly's bench with a group of coolly competitive athletes fully aware of their roles.
"There is a thought to it," Mattingly said before Sunday's Interleague finale against the Angels. "The guys we brought in, we feel like they are kind of role players now. We wanted to make sure they've accepted that first, that you're not going be an everyday player."
Jerry Hairston, Adam Kennedy and Matt Treanor were free-agent acquisitions, while Bobby Abreu arrived after the Angels released him. Elian Herrera has shaken off the stereotype of career Minor Leaguer to emerge as an invaluable all-purpose player. Brilliant defensively with enough offense to hold his own, Tony Gwynn is as good as any fourth outfielder in the game.
"We can mix and match off the bench," Mattingly said. "With Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy, they're not coming in trying to knock somebody off his perch. They're good with playing four times out of seven [games]. In the National League game, you're in every game. You want guys who want to be in winning environments, playing for something -- not guys who are just playing out a year."
Hairston feels Abreu's role sliding into the No. 3 spot in the order in Matt Kemp's absence has been especially important. The Dodgers are 9-6 with Abreu hitting third, the role he's spent most of his career in while racking up borderline Hall of Fame numbers.
"Bobby's been huge," Hairston said. "People don't realize how when you lose a hitter like Matt Kemp, you don't just plug in guys in the third and fourth holes. Bobby's done it his whole career. He's allowed guys to hit in positions where they're more comfortable. He's also helped a lot of guys -- myself included -- with the way he goes about his at-bats."
Since joining the Dodgers on May 4, Abreu is 13th in the NL in on-base percentage (.397) and is hitting .375 in late-and-close situations. He was in the cleanup slot on Sunday between Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera.
Hairston lauds chemistry of unselfish Dodgers
ANAHEIM -- The Dodgers are aware of the perception among outsiders that they are playing beyond their abilities in maintaining the lead in the National League West without Matt Kemp and Mark Ellis.
"We could care less what other people feel," versatile and productive veteran Jerry Hairston said. "Even when we were back in [Spring Training] camp, we felt we were going to be in every ballgame. Let's do things to win ballgames; that's how we looked at it. We've got to keep doing that.
"We have guys who know how to play the game, guys who have played a long time and been around the game their whole lives. We understand how to move a guy over, make the right play. Probably the most important part is the pitching; they've kept us in ballgames.
"We always pull for each other. It's a very unselfish group."
Hairston, who drove in one of the runs in a 3-1 victory over the Angels on Saturday and was given Sunday off by manager Don Mattingly, is batting .300 since returning from the DL (left hamstring strain) on May 25. He has started 37 games at four positions and is clutch with a .353 average from the seventh inning on.
Hawksworth fires perfect inning in rehab outing
ANAHEIM -- Dodgers right-hander Blake Hawksworth pitched a perfect inning Sunday in his second Minor League rehab assignment appearance for Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Hawksworth is recovering from a pair of spring right elbow operations. He made his first appearance Friday night while allowing one run in one inning.