CHICAGO -- Dodgers right-hander Carlos Monasterios took the news of his next spot start as if it's no big deal. After all, he's been a starting pitcher most of his brief career.

"I like starting," he said.

Manager Joe Torre, who named Monasterios Friday night's starter against the Rockies in Denver, has been careful to use Monasterios mostly in non-pressure situations. He's responded with a stellar 1.90 ERA, which includes five scoreless innings in his last two relief appearances. His only start was May 1, when he allowed one run in four innings.

"It's a little surprising to me," Monasterios said of his success, considering that as a Rule 5 Draft pick, he had only three appearances above Class A prior to making the Dodgers' Opening Day roster. "I'm preparing really well. Scouting reports help a lot. We don't have those in the Minor Leagues."

Monasterios said he isn't intimidated by Major League hitters.

"They are good hitters. But I'm a good pitcher," he said. "They are a man like me, you know? They have a bat, I have the ball. They want to hit me, I want to strike them out."

The Dodgers, carrying 11 pitchers since George Sherrill was placed on the disabled list, plan to call up a reliever by Friday. Triple-A Albuquerque relievers currently on the 40-man roster are Jon Link, Brent Leach and Travis Schlichting.

Torre rethinks Ethier's rehab plan

CHICAGO -- Perhaps it was the rustiness displayed by Rafael Furcal the night before, but Dodgers manager Joe Torre called an audible on Andre Ethier on Wednesday, saying the outfielder would likely serve a Minor League rehab assignment before being activated from the disabled list.

Ethier is eligible to come off the DL on Sunday. His permission would be needed to be sent on a rehab assignment, which he said he would give.

"Wherever they tell me to play, that's where I'll go," Ethier said after taking live batting practice for the second consecutive day in his quick recovery from a broken right little finger.

A day earlier, the Dodgers were considering having Ethier hit in a Saturday simulated game off rehabbing pitcher Vicente Padilla and not go to the Minors. Hours later, Furcal returned from nearly a month on the DL by going 0-for-4 with two errors.

Ethier, however, hasn't yet been disabled two weeks. With a splint immobilizing his broken knuckle, he can swing naturally while his finger is still able to heal.

"When I said, 'Would you play a game?' He shook his head [yes]," said Torre. "It seems he wants to make sure it's right. I told him to let me know. I watched him hit yesterday, and really there were no restrictions. I thought he was pretty seamless as far as trying to protect it."

Torre said he would prefer Ethier go to Triple-A Albuquerque rather than nearby Class A Inland Empire so he could bat against a better quality of pitcher. However, Albuquerque plays at home on Wednesday and Thursday nights, then leaves for a series in Memphis that opens on Friday night.

Torre said Ethier has a little ache when he finishes his swings, but it didn't prevent Ethier from sending balls out of Wrigley Field both days.

Torre wasn't ready to concede that Furcal's first-game troubles were the result of not playing enough games before he was activated.

"Let's wait and see the next couple of games to make that decision," he said. "The jury's still out on that one."

Padilla turns in positive bullpen session

CHICAGO -- Dodgers right-hander Vicente Padilla said he felt good after a 45-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday that included throwing breaking balls off a mound for the first time since being placed on the 15-day disabled list a month ago with an inflamed radial nerve.

Padilla said he had some sensation in his forearm. Because it is in a different location than the pain that sent him to the sidelines, trainers believe what he felt is from the therapy he has been receiving and not a recurrence of the original injury.

"He feels it a little bit here and there, and we have to interpret that," said trainer Stan Conte. "He's right on target with what we want. He'll have a simulated game in Colorado Saturday, and if he comes out of it OK, the next step after that will be a [Minor League] rehab start."

Padilla will need about three of those to rebuild arm strength to starter level, so he's not likely to return until mid-June.

"We stepped up slowly with the number of pitches and the type of pitches," said Conte. "Today he threw the four-seam, curveball, two-seam and splitter."

The Dodgers want to see Padilla in Major League games before deciding a midseason-acquisition strategy to bolster the pitching staff.

Torre has horse in Belmont Stakes

CHICAGO -- Avid thoroughbred racehorse owner Joe Torre never had a starter in a Triple Crown race until this year, and he's about to have his second in five weeks.

Homeboykris, a gelding part-owned by the Dodgers' manager, went off at odds of 27-1 in the Kentucky Derby and ran like it, finishing 16th of 20 but fulfilling Torre's dream of having a starter in the Run for the Roses.

Now, Game On Dude is scheduled to compete in the June 5 $1 million Belmont Stakes in New York, and Torre owns a piece of him, too. In his most recent race, Game On Dude won the May 9 Lone Star Derby outside of Dallas. It was Game On Dude's second win in five starts and, notes Torre, he is bred to go the Belmont's taxing 1 1/2-mile distance.

The Dodgers will be preparing to play a night game with Atlanta at Dodger Stadium when the Belmont Stakes is run, and Torre will watch the race from his office television, as he did the Kentucky Derby. Game On Dude is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert.

Dodgers inquire into Oswalt, M's Lee

CHICAGO -- The Dodgers have asked the Astros and Mariners about pitchers Roy Oswalt and Cliff Lee, respectively, but have been told they are not available, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The report also claims the two clubs told the Dodgers they will get back to them if and when the players become available.

Oswalt has a no-trade clause and would come with a financial commitment of more than $25 million, which is considered beyond the Dodgers' current willingness to pay. Lee would cost only the remaining $4.5 million on his salary, but he is about to become a free agent.

The Dodgers' need for starting pitching is no secret. Opening Day starter Vicente Padilla is expected to remain on the disabled list for another three weeks with an inflamed nerve in his pitching arm. Rule 5 rookie Carlos Monasterios starts on Friday after Ramon Ortiz didn't work out as a fifth starter.

John Ely has moved into the rotation and been the surprise of the season after only three Triple-A starts.

McDonald strains hamstring in Triple-A start

CHICAGO -- The Dodgers' already-thin pitching ranks took another hit Wednesday night when promising right-hander James McDonald left Triple-A Albuquerque's game with a strained right hamstring suffered running the bases.

McDonald had been in command through five scoreless innings against Reno, allowing only two hits while striking out five. He was injured while sliding into second base. McDonald had missed a start earlier this season with two cracked fingernails.

McDonald went into Spring Training as one of the favorites to win the Dodgers' fifth starter job, as he did a year earlier, but pitched poorly and was sent out March 20.