GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he now expects to start the season with third baseman Casey Blake on the disabled list.

"We're definitely moving in that direction," said Mattingly.

Blake wouldn't go quite that far when asked if he didn't think he'd be ready.

"I can't say that," he said. "You never know."

But Blake inflamed his thoracic spine nine days ago, and the closest he's come to baseball activity is hitting off a tee. That still hurts him at the end of the swing, even though he's had an injection and is taking anti-inflammatory medication.

Even if Blake was 100 percent healthy today, he said he needs at-bats to be ready for Major League competition.

"I know I'm not ready now even if I could play," he said. "The good thing about being here is that I can get six, seven, eight at-bats on the Minor League side."

Mattingly agreed that the timing of the injury would require the 37-year-old to have an accelerated Spring Training, at the risk of further injury.

"Guys that start targeting Opening Day and tell you stuff to get to Opening Day, for me I'd rather not have them for five, seven, 10 days, and have them healthy and ready to go the rest of the year instead of a guy banging around."

Blake's injury not only makes a second utility infielder a necessity, but it might free a roster spot for a utility man like Hector Gimenez, the switch-hitting catcher who has been playing first base. Mattingly said Gimenez would be tried in the outfield this week.

Thames preparing to spend time at first base

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Marcus Thames, signed to platoon in left field with Jay Gibbons and Tony Gwynn, was in the Dodgers' lineup for Monday's day game at first base. He's played 44 games there in the last three seasons.

"Something I had to do if I wanted to play," said Thames, who has outplayed his outfield defensive reputation so far this spring. "[Manager Jim] Leyland called me in the offseason before '07 and asked if I had a first-base glove. I said no. He said, 'We'll get you one.' Whatever it takes."

Thames said he's been taking grounders at first lately. He said Rafael Belliard, Carlos Guillen and Sean Casey helped him learn the position that spring with the Tigers.

"I do the best I can there," he said. "This is in case somebody gets hurt, in a pinch. I know James [Loney] likes to play every day, but in an emergency, I'm willing."

Manager Don Mattingly said Thames would probably play the position only against an occasional tough left-handed pitcher.

Thames said he learned that there's "a lot more going on over there than people think -- being in the right place on cuts and relays."

And then there are pickoff throws.

"We had [Joel] Zumaya," he said of the high-octane reliever. "That part wasn't fun."

Kershaw feels strong, but has work to do

SALT RIVER, Ariz. -- The Monday afternoon split-squad home game he was scheduled to pitch was rained out, so Clayton Kershaw was pushed back to a chilly and damp road game against Arizona at night.

Having arrived early in the morning, Kershaw hung around the clubhouse, went home for a couple hours, then made the drive across the Valley. He allowed two runs in five-plus innings, ran his pitch count to 94 (32 in the two-run fourth inning) and was pleased that he pitched, if not the way he pitched.

"I was glad I got to pitch," he said. "I battled the whole night, I was behind in counts the whole night. I was inconsistent. I have a lot of stuff to work on, and I'm glad I got to see what I have to work on."

Kershaw said he's ready to go arm-strength wise, but isn't where he wants to be staying ahead in counts. In his previous start, on March 15, he allowed 11 hits and five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Kershaw will be cut back to around 60 pitches in his final spring start on Saturday.

"He's not extremely happy about the last two," Honeycutt said. "He felt when he needed to make a pitch, he wasn't able to accomplish it. Overall, I felt he's throwing the ball well. He threw the changeup for strikes more."

As for the rapidly approaching Opening Day assignment against the Giants, Kershaw said: "I've definitely thought about it. It's still 10 days away, but it's in the back of my mind, for sure."

The rainout caused Honeycutt some juggling of the work schedule. Fifth-starter candidate Tim Redding had his night-game start scratched and, after a bullpen session Tuesday, won't pitch again until the Friday fundraiser game in Tucson, Ariz., in memory of Christina Taylor Green. Rubby De La Rosa also will pitch in that game. Reliever Blake Hawksworth will pitch in a Minor League game on Tuesday.

Padilla on mound for Monday bullpen session

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Vicente Padilla got back on the mound Monday for a 10-pitch bullpen session, apparently easing back into things as he recovers from forearm surgery.

Padilla made 30 pitches in his first bullpen session Friday, but he wasn't able to play catch the following day. He resumed playing catch Sunday and felt well enough to try throwing off a mound again on Monday.

"He felt better yesterday and was good today," said Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

Padilla appeared to be making a quick recovery from Feb. 24 surgery to free an entrapped radial nerve in his throwing forearm. No timetable was given for his return, but the only pitcher known to have had a similar operation, Jeff D'Amico, missed two months of games.

Manager Don Mattingly said Padilla and Jon Garland (strained oblique) were both making progress and he didn't rule out Garland being ready for April 12, the first time the Dodgers need a fifth starter. Garland, who was injured on March 9, is able to throw from 70 feet without discomfort.

"Jon is at the period when it starts feeling good, and that's when you worry about pushing it," Mattingly said. "We pretty much know they're not making Opening Day."

Jarrin to receive AFTRA Excellence Award

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers Hall of Fame Spanish-language broadcaster Jaime Jarrin will receive AFTRA's 2011 Media and Entertainment Excellence Award on Monday night at a dinner gala benefit for the AFTRA Foundation at Club Nokia.

AFTRA -- the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists -- also will honor "America's Most Wanted" host John Walsh and recording artist David Crosby.

Past recipients of the award include Jarrin's English-language counterpart, Hall of Famer Vin Scully.

This is Jarrin's 53rd season broadcasting for the Dodgers after coming to the United States from Ecuador in 1955. He joined AFTRA in 1958. He received the Ford C. Frick Award, was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Jarrin's profile was elevated in 1981 when he served as interpreter for Dodgers phenom Fernando Valenzuela, who now shares the broadcast booth with Jarrin and Pepe Yniguez. Jarrin has called 19 All-Star Games and 25 World Series.