GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he now expects to start the season with third baseman Casey Blake on the disabled list.
"We're definitely moving in that direction," said Mattingly.
Blake wouldn't go quite that far when asked if he didn't think he'd be ready.
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"I can't say that," he said. "You never know."
But Blake inflamed his thoracic spine nine days ago, and the closest he's come to baseball activity is hitting off a tee. That still hurts him at the end of the swing, even though he's had an injection and is taking anti-inflammatory medication.
Even if Blake was 100 percent healthy today, he said he needs at-bats to be ready for Major League competition.
"I know I'm not ready now even if I could play," he said. "The good thing about being here is that I can get six, seven, eight at-bats on the Minor League side."
Mattingly agreed that the timing of the injury would require the 37-year-old to have an accelerated Spring Training, at the risk of further injury.
"Guys that start targeting Opening Day and tell you stuff to get to Opening Day, for me I'd rather not have them for five, seven, 10 days, and have them healthy and ready to go the rest of the year instead of a guy banging around."
Blake's injury not only makes a second utility infielder a necessity, but it might free a roster spot for a utility man like Hector Gimenez, the switch-hitting catcher who has been playing first base. Mattingly said Gimenez would be tried in the outfield this week.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.