GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Vicente Padilla said his arm felt "so-so" after Friday's bullpen session, and he skipped playing catch Saturday.

Padilla said he would try to play catch Sunday.

Padilla had surgery on his forearm on Feb. 24 to free a radial nerve entrapped by a muscle that had been bothering him for years. The only Major Leaguer known to have had a similar operation was Milwaukee pitcher Jeff D'Amico in 2001. He returned in two months.

Because the procedure was rare, the club never issued a timetable for Padilla's return -- there wasn't enough history to comfortably predict a likely rehab. Padilla seems to be recovering quicker than anyone anticipated, although the bullpen session was his first major test.

"I don't know if he's ahead or behind," manager Don Mattingly said. "There was no timetable because there is no history of the injury. [Being disabled] is still up in the air. He's progressing nicely. But he hasn't been out there [in a game], and to be ready by [March] 31 and comfortable enough, it's hard to say."

On Friday, Padilla made 30 throws and was monitored with a radar gun to assure he wouldn't surpass 80 mph, although he threw easily and appeared to have more in the tank.

Padilla was re-signed to serve in a swing role, primarily out of the bullpen, but with the ability to slide into a starting spot if needed. With Jon Garland having suffered an oblique injury, a substitute fifth starter might be needed by April 12. Padilla would be available sooner if he builds arm strength for relief and not starting.

Elbert uses strong outing to fight for spot

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Marcus Thames and Scott Elbert used Saturday's game to dispel negative reputations.

Elbert has been fighting wildness for years, but the lefty threw a 1-2-3 seventh inning with a strikeout against the Brewers and could sneak back into the picture for a Dodgers bullpen spot, with Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla expected to open the season on the disabled list.

"I'm out here at 8:30 in the morning every day with [Triple-A pitching coach Glenn] Dishman working on my timing and I'm seeing results," said Elbert. "I've lowered my hands and it's getting my throwing arm out quicker. It helps your confidence when you know where it's going to go."

Elbert could be fighting for a bullpen spot with Ramon Troncoso, who allowed one run in one-third of an inning when asked to be the first Dodgers reliever this spring to pitch on consecutive days. Troncoso has a 5.87 ERA, Elbert 4.15. Elbert walked six of the first 10 batters he faced this spring, but has allowed only one hit in 4 1/3 innings.

Thames, meanwhile, has the tag of a poor defensive outfielder, but it hasn't shown this spring. In the third inning Saturday, he had a long run for and made a sliding catch of a Randy Wolf fly ball on the warning track in foul territory.

"I've heard rumblings, but I've never noticed his defense, it never seemed bad," said manager Don Mattingly. "Maybe he's not a Gold Glove, but I've never seen where it's ugly. I don't know if that's a compliment or not, but he's solid. He's taken some good routes."

Thames' offense hasn't been a problem, either, as he's hitting .333 this spring with five doubles in 30 at-bats.

Kuroda starts as LA raises funds for Japan

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hiroki Kuroda has tried to leave thoughts of the Japan catastrophes behind when he comes to work each day, but that wasn't possible Saturday, when he started for the Dodgers on the day the club also raised $5,873 for disaster relief.

Kuroda said he was satisfied with his pitching. He tossed 5 2/3 innings against the Brewers with three runs on nine hits. The right-hander acknowledged his pitches found a lot of bats, but he kept the ball in the park and got his pitch count up to 83.

He said he felt fine physically. Mentally, he's doing the best he can, considering what's happened in his homeland over the past week.

"I can't afford to think about anything [else] when I go to the mound," he said.

After he pitched, he signed autographs for fans who donated to the Red Cross.

"I'm just so grateful to the fans for being willing to help," said Kuroda, who donated $50,000 to the fund-raising.

Manager Don Mattingly said he admires the way that Kuroda has handled the situation.

"It's rough, he can't really get away from it," said Mattingly. "The field is always that place where you can get a little bit of rest."

The game with the Brewers, which ended in a 6-6 tie after 10 innings, drew an announced attendance of 12,141, largest home crowd this spring for the Dodgers.

Blake hits off tee, still dealing with soreness

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake had another day of rehabilitation Saturday that included hitting off a tee, but he said there has been no miracle recovery from the inflammation in his lower thoracic area.

"It gets sore when I'm done," said Blake, who also ran in the aqua-tred and played catch. "We'll see how it feels tomorrow."

Blake was injured a week ago trying to leg out a sacrifice bunt. He received an injection and is taking anti-inflammatory medication.

"If this was the offseason, I'd just let it rest and it would get better," he said. "With Opening Day coming up [March 31], we can't just let it rest. We're trying to get me ready while letting it heal at the same time."