Darryl Strawberry, convinced he can return to the lineup within the week, admitted Tuesday it was a probably a mistake to postpone back surgery last season.
"If I'd known what it would have been like, going through back surgery, I probably would have done it earlier," he said before Tuesday's game.
Strawberry was out of the lineup again Tuesday night because of back stiffness associated with surgery performed Sept. 15 to repair a disk.
He admitted last year that he was afraid of surgery and preferred to rest his back instead. He agreed to an operation in September.
Strawberry's prognosis for this season improved Tuesday when the Dodgers' medical staff cleared him to take batting practice today.
He might return to the lineup as early as Friday, when the Dodgers play at San Francisco.
"It's a possibility," said Dr. Robert Watkins, a back specialist. "But right now we don't know when he's going to play."
Strawberry suggested last weekend that he might be out for months because of the latest flareup, but all concerned were more optimistic after his 2 1/2-hour workout Tuesday under the watch of Pat Screnar, the team's physical therapist, and Watkins.
Watkins stressed that Strawberry must maintain a rigid, daily workout program for the rest of his career.
The program, which involves stretching exercises, will take a minimum of two hours. To allow time for rest before games, Strawberry will be required to report to the ballpark at 2 p.m. for night games and 8:30 a.m. for day games.
"Two hours a day, seven days a week," Watkins said. "That's the plan."
Strawberry said he will comply.
"That's basically what I have to deal with the rest of the year," he said. "I have no choice."
Reliever Todd Worrell, who remains on the disabled list because of a strained right forearm, said he was closer to returning after throwing for about 15 minutes.
Worrell said he can be back within a week, possibly after a brief rehabilitation stint with one of the team's minor league affiliates.