CHICAGO -- Hiroki Kuroda, despite allowing seven runs on nine hits in five innings of a Class A injury rehab game Wednesday night, could return to the Dodgers' starting rotation as early as next week, manager Joe Torre said Thursday.

"He got waxed last night, but ... he felt good, threw the ball good. Physically, he seems fine," said Torre. "He'll throw a bullpen [session at Dodger Stadium] tomorrow, and we'll make a decision what's next for him."

Torre sounded eager to get his Opening Day starter back from a strained oblique muscle, perhaps because his starting pitchers lately rarely go deeper than six innings and often shorter than that. Torre was asked if Kuroda's ineffectiveness against Class A hitters meant he needed at least one more Minor League start.

"Maybe not," said Torre. "I'm not as concerned with his form. It wasn't an arm issue. He didn't have his movement, but there were some dropped popups, it wasn't a clean game for him. The reports I have, he threw the ball good. His velocity was very good."

Should Kuroda return next week, he could replace either Eric Milton or Eric Stults in the rotation. Stults conceded that he felt his jammed thumb while pitching 4 1/3 innings in Colorado on Monday and has been told by doctors the pain could linger for weeks. Milton on Tuesday recorded his first Major League win in almost three years, but he went only five innings.

Either of them could wind up in the bullpen, where left-handed reliever Will Ohman has a 5.84 ERA and is allowing left-handed hitters a .296 average, with seven of the eight hits allowed to them going for extra bases.

In other medical news, outfielder Xavier Paul has been released from a Los Angeles hospital after being treated for a staph infection that will keep him sidelined several more weeks.

Hong-Chih Kuo is continuing his recovery from more elbow problems at the club's Arizona complex with mixed results and there is no timetable for a Minor League assignment.