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03/05/11 10:10 PM ET

Ailing Loney could return Wednesday

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers haven't given a diagnosis for James Loney's stiff left knee, but the club released a statement Saturday night indicating the first baseman could be playing again by Wednesday.

Loney's left knee stiffened up Thursday during stretching and again following Friday night's game, in which he played. He underwent an MRI exam on Saturday and team doctors concluded that the non-painful but swollen knee should improve in the next few days as swelling goes down.

Loney is expected to rest Sunday, resume hitting and throwing Monday, could run by Tuesday and start in a game by Wednesday.

After speaking to Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte following Saturday's 2-0 win over the Reds, manager Don Mattingly said he was given no reason to believe the injury is anything serious.

"As far as Stan told me, he's not really concerned," said Mattingly. "We don't want to give information until the doc comes in. James just said it feels tight, no pain, but didn't seem too concerned about it."

Loney had issues with the same knee in high school, but nothing to impact playing time since the Dodgers drafted him in the first round of 2002.

Whatever time Loney is out will provide playing opportunities for rookies John Lindsey, who had a September call-up last year; Russell Mitchell, who started at first base Saturday; and Jerry Sands, who has made an early impression already this spring.

Mattingly said there is no one back-up first baseman, but the first name he mentioned was Mitchell. He also said outfielders Jay Gibbons and Marcus Thames would work at the position for double-switch purposes and Casey Blake could move across the diamond from third base, as he has done in the past.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.