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Dodgers Spring Training: Vicente Padilla Could Return Earlier Than Expected

The Dodgers, after an eight-game losing streak this spring, have won their last three games. However, it is only spring training, and Cactus League records aren't terribly important one way or another. What is important is getting ready for the regulation, and staying healthy. On the health front, the Dodgers have taken some hits, but none look to be too devastating in the long term.

Casey Blake is dealing with inflammation in his back, and might start the season on the disabled list. Blake insists he will be ready to play on March 31, but even if he isn't ready he doesn't figure to miss much time. Then again, a back injury could be one of those lingering maladies that take their toll gradually all season.

Vicente Padilla had arm surgery on February 24, and has said previously that he plans to be ready to pitch for the Dodgers by May 1. Padilla did throw off a mound on Friday, for the first time since his surgery, and now the timetable for his return might move up a bit. It has been generally assumed that Padilla would open the season on the disabled list, though manager Don Mattingly suggested a possible early return for the hurler:

"It's still up in the air, it's one of those things. He's progressing nicely," Mattingly said of Padilla. "The fact that he hasn't been out there, it's tough to say on the 31st whether he'd be comfortable enough to pitch." The earliest the Dodgers can place a player on the DL is 10 days before the season, so even if Padilla did start the season on the sidelines he could return as soon as April 5. That is, if he is ready to pitch.

For more Dodgers news and information, be sure to read the SB Nation blog True Blue LA.