Team hopes Jon Garland will miss no more than one or two starts

Reporting from Phoenix — The Dodgers said Thursday they hope pitcher Jon Garland will at most miss one or two starts when the season begins because of a strained oblique muscle in his torso.

“We still have three weeks left in camp and we really don’t need a fifth starter for a little while into the season, so hopefully he won’t miss much more than a turn or two,” Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti said after an MRI exam confirmed Garland’s injury.

Manager Don Mattingly said John Ely and Tim Redding — who together have tossed 14 scoreless innings this spring — were the leading candidates to replace Garland if needed. “I’d say those two guys would be the main guys right now,” Mattingly said.

With two off days next month, the Dodgers don’t appear to need a fifth starter until April 12. That’s also roughly when it is hoped Garland’s strain will have healed. Garland suffered the injury while pitching Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners.


“In general this [injury] on average has been 30, 32 days” to mend, Mattingly said. In the meantime, Garland “can’t really do anything. It’s not like you can keep throwing.”

Indeed, Garland, 31, said, “I sneezed last night and it hurt pretty bad,” and the right-hander added he has to “give it time, let it heal,” which could mean being on the disabled list opening day.

“I’m always going to hold out hope, but the Vegas odds aren’t looking too good right now,” he said.

Garland, who has started 30-plus games in each of the last nine seasons, signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers after a 14-12 season with the San Diego Padres last year.

The Valencia native spent most of his career with the Chicago White Sox but also pitched for the Dodgers in the latter half of 2009, when he was 3-2 in six starts.

Garland’s injury raised the question of whether the Dodgers might start the season with one fewer pitcher than planned, and one more position player, until Garland returns.

“It’s worth a discussion, we’ll have to see how it goes,” Colletti said.

Broxton’s mandate

Mattingly was asked whether he wants closer Jonathan Broxton to occasionally get more than three outs in a game, at least early in the season. The answer was no.

“One inning,” Mattingly replied.

“I want him thinking that . . . when we get to the ninth [inning] with a lead, the ball’s his,” Mattingly said.

Broxton, looking to rebound from his problems in the second half of 2010, struggled for any outs Thursday in the Dodgers’ 8-2 Cactus League loss to the Padres.

The beefy right-hander gave up three hits and four earned runs, including a home run to Jarrett Hoffpauir, along with a walk and hit batter. Broxton also took the loss.

Mattingly expressed little concern. “I want him to have success,” he said of Broxton, but added that “I’ve watched some of the best get beat up pretty good in spring training.”