CHICAGO -- The regulars will be back in the starting lineup Friday night when the Dodgers take on the Mariners, but Thursday was clear-the-bench day in Chicago.

Regulars Rafael Furcal, Andre Ethier and James Loney didn't start, catcher Russell Martin was the designated hitter and reserves got rare opportunities to play.

It was the kind of game Doug Mientkiewicz would have expected to start, if he hadn't blown out his shoulder April 16 on an unnecessary dive into second base at the end of a double. The resulting surgical repair work was likely to shelve Mientkiewicz for the rest of the season, or at least until September, when the Dodgers were hoping they might get his bat back when rosters expand, but not his arm.

Of course, Mientkiewicz had a different timetable in mind, and he's ahead of even that one as he rehabs like the madman that he is.

He's been swinging off a tee and anticipates graduating to soft toss next week. But he's convinced he'll be throwing a baseball soon, having already incorporated a throwing motion into his exercises for greater range of motion with generally positive results.

"I'm taking swings I didn't think I'd be taking for another six weeks," said Mientkiewicz. "Everybody is scared to think about it, it's going so well. This is something pitchers get, not position players, so there really isn't a set timetable. But I'm working five or six hours a day with Stan [Conte, trainer]. To be with me that long a time and not need mental counseling, that's a positive."

Mientkiewicz tore his labrum and chipped a bone on the awkward landing, requiring a reattachment of the bone and anchoring of the labrum. He said it aches when he sleeps and is grumpy in the mornings, but the throwing motion exercises seem to be working.

"One thing this injury did," he said, "was make me understand that I still want to play. I'd like to play a full year for Joe Torre without going on the disabled list."

Although the Dodgers bullpen pitched 6 2/3 innings Thursday after pitching 4 1/3 innings Wednesday night, Torre said it should be in decent shape for Friday night's opener with the Mariners. Only Jeff Weaver should be unavailable with Ramon Troncoso probably limited to one inning.

Pitching matchup
LAD: LHP Clayton Kershaw (4-5, 3.76 ERA)
Kershaw seems to have found a rhythm in his last two starts, in which he has thrown 12 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings, including seven shutout innings against the Angels Sunday. He had to overcome a bases-loaded, no-out jam and four walks, but he's also showing the potential dominance that very few 21-year-olds possess. Angels center fielder Torii Hunter called Kershaw "effectively wild."

SEA: LHP Jason Vargas (3-2, 3.24 ERA)
The left-hander ended a two-game losing streak with a bang, retiring 20 of the final 21 batters he faced against the D-backs. He was supposed to get an extra day between starts, but when a shoulder ailment sidelined fellow lefty Erik Bedard, Vargas pitched on his regular fifth day and was superb against Arizona. He used his changeup more often, which made his high-80s fastball more effective, and had excellent control, working a walk-free seven innings.

Tidbits
Second baseman Orlando Hudson has seven RBIs in his past eight games. ... Third baseman Casey Blake had two stolen bases on Thursday for the first time in a game since 2004. They were his first two steals of the season. He's also reached base safely in 15 consecutive games. ... Juan Castro is batting .340 in 15 starts. He had a single and scored a run on Thursday.

Tickets
 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• PRIME

On radio
• KABC 790, KHJ 930 (Español)

Up next
• Saturday: Dodgers (Eric Milton, 2-0, 2.89) vs. Mariners (Felix Hernandez, 7-3, 2.74), 7:10 p.m. PT
• Sunday: Dodgers (Hiroki Kuroda, 2-3, 3.44) vs. Mariners (Garrett Olson, 2-2, 4.95), 1:10 p.m. PT
• Monday: Dodgers (Randy Wolf, 3-3, 3.64) vs. Rockies (Ubaldo Jimenez, 6-7, 3.83), 7:10 p.m. PT