DENVER -- It may sound like two steps forward and one step back, but the Dodgers are making progress in getting their full squad healthy and in the big league dugout.
Right-hander Jon Garland is on track to return as early as April 15 and will join the club Friday in San Diego to throw a bullpen session before going to Class A Rancho Cucamonga for a rehab start. Garland has been angling to fill the fifth starter's spot when it first comes into play Friday.
"He hasn't pitched in a game yet," manager Don Mattingly said, dismissing the idea. "It's hard to let him come out and think he's going to just pitch a game. I know he thinks he can, and maybe he can. From our standpoint, it's kind of hard to send him out there and say he's got 80 pitches when he hasn't pitched in a game yet.
"We're hoping for the 15th. I'd say that would be the best-case scenario, but we still want to do what's best long term. If he's not right, he can't do it."
Outfielder Jay Gibbons is also making progress, after getting new contact lenses to correct a problem with his depth perception. He took 12 at-bats against Dodgers pitchers in Arizona on Tuesday and will join Triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday and start the Isotopes' season with them Thursday.
"He said he's seeing the ball," Mattingly said. "So far, so good. He seems to be feeling better about it all. He's in shape. He did everything we wanted him to do in camp. Now it's just trying to get timing with what he's seeing."
Right-hander Vicente Padilla is continuing his recovery from forearm surgery, but the Dodgers are dialing him back a bit.
"He's had some soreness after that 60[-pitch session] the other day, so we're going to slow him down a little bit," Mattingly said, indicating the soreness was in Padilla's right forearm and elbow area. "He's still really ahead of schedule for us and what we thought, but we just want to be careful and not push him too fast."
Mattingly sees Padilla as a versatile cog in the bullpen, capable of being everything from long man to last man at the back of the bullpen.
We look at him as a guy who can give you a couple innings if need be," Mattingly said. "He's also a guy if Brox [closer Jonathan Broxton] was down and needed a day, he's the guy you'd close with. He throws strikes, he locates his fastball, he's not afraid, and he's got something for everybody. The only time he walks somebody is really when he wants to. He can pitch in all different areas in the 'pen, and that's why we really like him there."