Dodgers starters improving slowly

Dodgers starters improving slowly

SAN FRANCISCO -- Injured starting pitchers Randy Wolf and Clayton Kershaw reported improvement Friday, but only Wolf is considered an outside possibility to start for the Dodgers on Tuesday night, the next time there's an open slot in the rotation.

Wolf, who hyperextended his left elbow in batting practice Sept. 2, is closer to returning than Kershaw, who separated his right (non-throwing) shoulder (the club calls it a bruise) slamming into the Plexiglas protecting the scoreboard embedded in the right-field fence at Dodger Stadium while shagging fly balls.

Wolf said he was "85 to 90 percent of normal" three days after receiving a cortisone injection in the back of his left elbow and wouldn't rule out a recovery quick enough to start Tuesday night, although the chances sounded remote.

"It's hard to tell. We'll see," he said. "I can't give an answer. I wouldn't say it's out of the question. The main thing is to be smart about it now. One or two extra days are worth it if it means I can pitch for most of September and into October. I have to be smart."

Wolf said the injury occurred when he rolled his wrist hitting a ground ball in pitchers batting practice and it "didn't bother me throwing" when he beat the Padres and allowed two runs over seven innings, but his velocity was down and the area was tight for a few days. He submitted to the injection when he was unable to extend during a bullpen session earlier this week in Arizona.

He said he hoped to throw a bullpen session "as early as Sunday or Monday, but I can't put a timetable" on his next start. He said he would be "utterly shocked" if he was sidelined weeks and not days.

Kershaw, meanwhile, continues to increase the range of motion with his right arm as he throws with his left on flat ground, but he still has not resumed catching or, more important, throwing with full effort.

"Catching is the least of it," said Kershaw. "It's whether I can move my right arm while I follow through with my pitch. That's what we're working toward."

Manager Joe Torre named knuckleballer Charlie Haeger, long reliever Jeff Weaver and rookie Scott Elbert as candidates to pick up the Tuesday night start.

Casey Blake, who missed five games with a sore left hamstring, returned to the lineup Friday night, with versatile sub Ronnie Belliard moving to second base as the replacement for Orlando Hudson, who is 2-for-21 lifetime against Giants starter Matt Cain.

Pinch-hitter Jim Thome reported continued improvement with his sore left heel, but he was still concerned about the first step out of the batter's box and Torre said he was still reluctant to use Thome.

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