Garland likely headed to DL with oblique strain

Garland likely headed to DL with oblique strain

Garland likely headed to DL with oblique strain
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- An MRI confirmed that Dodgers starter Jon Garland has a strained oblique muscle that is expected to sideline him from four to six weeks, but the Dodgers are not scrambling for a replacement fifth starter.

General manager Ned Colletti said the club will stay in-house, and manager Don Mattingly said that John Ely and non-roster invitee Tim Redding will take over Garland's Spring Training innings. Off-days in April could make Garland's absence from the rotation moot if he can return in the 30- to 35-day window the medical staff considers possible, even though he's likely to begin the season on the disabled list.

"[Pitching coach] Rick [Honeycutt] has them lined up in Garland's spot, and they've both done good here," Mattingly said of Ely and Redding, who have pitched 14 combined scoreless innings. "John's done here what we saw him do early last season, and Tim -- we know he knows how to pitch. He'll keep you in the ballgame."

The Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until April 12, which Mattingly said is "the only silver lining." It is conceivable Garland could be back by then, or soon after.

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"It puts us around that time," said Mattingly. "Even if he misses one turn, that's pretty close to being at full strength when we need [him] to be."

Colletti said the Dodgers might start the season with 11 pitchers and call up a starter for April 12, if needed.

Garland acknowledged he's likely to start the season on the disabled list, where he's been only once, and that was 10 years ago after getting struck by a line drive. He hasn't missed a start due to an injury for nine seasons.

"I always hold out hope, but the Vegas odds aren't looking too good right now," said Garland, who was injured while making a pitch Wednesday.

Garland said the injury bothers him whenever his trunk area is active, but not when he stands still.

"Last night I sneezed and it hurt pretty bad," he said. "I have to give it time to let it heal."

Garland said he was told his tear wasn't major or minor, but somewhere in between. A major tear, in which the muscle can separate from bone, can take months to heal.

Garland said a key to his return will be his ability to keep the muscles in his throwing arm from atrophying, and retaining the strength he's built in the first four weeks of Spring Training.

"We're going to try to keep me throwing somehow without aggravating the injury," he said. "I don't want to have to start Spring Training all over."

The problem with oblique tears, especially for pitchers, is that they need to heal completely, otherwise they are likely to recur.

"I've had it, and the first seven to eight days, you don't want to turn wrong in bed or cough," said Mattingly. "There's not a lot you can do without using it. But MRIs can see if it's healed. Technology can help us a little bit."

After going 14-12 for the Padres last year and being their Opening Day starter, Garland was signed by the Dodgers to a one-year, $5 million contract plus an option, primarily for his durability. He is coming off his ninth consecutive season of at least 190 innings.

Garland's signing to be the fifth starter made it possible for Vicente Padilla to be ticketed for relief work. Padilla, however, underwent surgery on his arm for an entrapped nerve last month and is not expected to be available until May 1.

The Dodgers had multiple problems with their starting pitching in 2010, not the least of which was an injury-plagued season from Opening Day starter Padilla, who was signed the previous winter instead of Garland. Padilla went 6-5 and pitched only 95 innings.

The fifth-starter slot was an even bigger problem. There was a Spring Training cattle call of rookies and veterans. Before acquiring Ted Lilly, the Dodgers used five starters other than Padilla, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Hiroki Kuroda. Ely, Carlos Monasterios, Ramon Ortiz, James McDonald and Charlie Haeger went a combined 6-21. Ortiz was released, McDonald was traded and Haeger signed with Seattle as a Minor League free agent. Monasterios is now a reliever exclusively.

Garland was making only his second start of the spring -- one fewer than most of the other starters, which the club and Garland had said was by design because he didn't want to stray from his typical winter program of not throwing off a mound until he arrived at Spring Training.

"I haven't changed a thing in 14 years and I feel I've done a pretty good job," he said of his throwing program. "The only time I was on the DL was 10 years ago, when I got hit by a line drive. What can you do? It's part of the game and you ride it out."

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