Thompson 'almost there' in back injury recovery

Dodgers outfielder hopes to be 100 percent in time for Cactus League games

Thompson 'almost there' in back injury recovery

LOS ANGELES -- As part of the "Dodgers Love L.A." community tour Tuesday, outfielder Trayce Thompson hosted a movie night for Cedars-Sinai Hospital pediatric patients and their families.

Thompson is still in the recovery stage of two fractured vertebrae in his lower back that derailed his emergence last year as an impact outfielder.

He said he is now taking batting practice and has begun light jogging with no setbacks. Thompson said his target date to be 100 percent healthy is March 1, in time for Spring Training games to join a crowded outfield.

Starting center fielder Joc Pederson is flanked by a contentious group of cornermen -- Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Scott Van Slyke, Darin Ruf and Thompson.

With a predominantly left-handed lineup that struggled against left-handed pitching, Dodgers management can only hope the right-handed Thompson returns healthy from the back injury he said began bothering him in May. He finished with a .225/.302/.436 slashline, but peaked at .307/.358/.613 by mid-May. He had 10 homers by June 7, finished with 13 and played his last game July 10.

Thompson's walk-off homer

"I'm almost there," he said. "I've been swinging and throwing, and just ran the other day. I'm getting there, trying to take it slow; I don't want any more setbacks."

Thompson said he has taken counsel from teammate Justin Turner, who rehabbed last offseason from knee surgery, as well as retired outfielder Eric Davis, both having stressed to him not to rush back just because he is trying to win a job.

"The target we're looking at is early March and I think it's realistic, but I have to pace myself," he said. "If I'm not 100 percent then, it's not necessarily a terrible thing. I feel like I have a lot to catch up on. I have to keep in mind the big picture with a season to play. I want all the at-bats I can get, but Day One Opening Day is the goal."

Thompson said Dodgers athletic trainers suspect he might have unknowingly injured the back even before he was acquired a year ago from the White Sox. Thompson said the discomfort started in May and varied in intensity until he ran into a wall in a game against the Orioles in July, leaving him with an irritated nerve.

"If you look back on my mechanics, you could definitely tell something was going on with my posture, and I have to make sure I don't lose it," he said.

Swinging a bat doesn't bother him, but he said "running will be the final step." He passed an unexpected test while dog-sitting brother and Warriors star Klay Thompson's pet, who made a break for it only to be chased down by Trayce.

"It was the fastest I've moved in a few months," he said. "I'm really encouraged, knock on wood."

Klay Thompson cheers on Trayce

Earlier in the day, strength and conditioning coaches Brandon McDaniel, Travis Smith and Shaun Alexander held a 75-minute fitness and health clinic for 100 underserved young women from the New Village Girls Academy in conjunction with Nike, an extension of sessions McDaniel has been giving lately to local professional and amateur coaches as well as interested parents.

"I want to impart the right principles at a young age so they can reach their full potential and not end up needing to fix a broken body," said McDaniel. "The Dodgers Foundation, and the 'Love L.A. Tour,' is trying to give back to the community and this is what I love to do."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.