GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While John Ely and Tim Redding compete for what might be an available fifth-starter spot, Jon Garland on Wednesday threw like it might not be available for long, if at all.

Garland, expected to be the fifth starter until he strained a left oblique March 9, is still throwing on flat ground well into his rehab, but he did it Wednesday with a firmness that indicated the pain is gone.

"It's gone except when I sneeze," said Garland. "Otherwise, it's doing good. I haven't completely let it go, and off a mound, I don't know. But there definitely was something behind it today. Since I started playing catch [last week], I haven't just been going through the motions and the last couple days I'm going heavier and heavier."

Garland hasn't missed a start because of an injury in nine years and was signed as much for his innings-eating durability as anything. The Dodgers haven't given a timetable on Garland's return, but they don't need a fifth starter until April 12 and the hope is that he'd be ready shortly thereafter. However, Garland will need to rebuild the arm strength needed by a starter, which usually takes four or five spring outings. If he comes out of Wednesday's workout healthy, he appears close to the next step in his recovery -- pitching off a mound.

Garland said he expects to leave Arizona with the club Sunday and continue his rehab in Los Angeles, then return to Arizona when he's ready to pitch in games.

Carroll, Blake take steps forward in rehabs

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injured Dodgers infielders Jamey Carroll and Casey Blake made progress Wednesday in their rehabilitations from injury.

Carroll, hampered for more than two weeks by a bruised right index finger, threw for the second day and then struck out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning in the 6-2 win against the White Sox. Carroll was hit by a pitch while bunting March 5 against the Reds.

Blake, in his second day on the field after missing 10 days with an inflamed back, added throwing across the diamond and batting practice in the cage to his Tuesday workout of playing catch, fielding grounders and hitting off a tee.

"Casey had a good day again," said manager Don Mattingly. "He saw some live BP in the cage. Assuming he's good tomorrow, he'll be an on-the-[practice]-field guy."

Because Blake is expected to start the season on the disabled list and the Dodgers want him to return at the soonest date, he probably won't play in any official spring games. A player cannot be disabled retroactively beyond the last day he played in a game.

"That would be taking a chance for no reason," Mattingly said of getting Blake into an exhibition game.

It's anticipated that Carroll will be the Opening Day second baseman, with Juan Uribe starting at third base in place of Blake.

Meanwhile, injured infielder Eugenio Velez is on crutches and could be out a month or more with a Grade 2 right ankle sprain, suffered Tuesday when he stepped on the side of the first-base bag while trying to leg out a bunt.

Lilly works through 'baseball stuff,' regains form

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Only two starts back, he was whacked for six runs in 2 2/3 innings, but Ted Lilly didn't get to this point in his career by panicking.

He made his next start in a "B" game, going six innings, and returned to Major League action Wednesday with six more solid innings against the White Sox, allowing two runs with five strikeouts, no walks and one more practice start before it counts.

"That was just baseball stuff," Lilly said of that March 12 game against the Royals, which the Dodgers lost, 19-7. "I felt fine mechanically against Kansas City, but a little off and I searched for it. It was nothing I shouldn't be able to work through. Spring Training is to tighten the loose screws up. It happens throughout the season, too. You have to be on track all the time."

Is he ready for the season to start?

"I'm getting a lot closer," he said. "It was good to go back out for the sixth. I felt like I wasn't physically tired but my arm strength was a little. I lost a little off my fastball. Once the season comes around, I want to go a little deeper in the game."

Lilly said he was happy with his mix of 85 pitches.

"I threw quite a few changeups," he said. "The hits, they just did a good piece of hitting."

That included, Lilly said, the home run Carlos Quentin hit.

"Give the hitter quite a bit of credit," Lilly said.

Elbert rounding into form at right time

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Scott Elbert cleared another hurdle in his comeback Wednesday, pitching a scoreless inning against the White Sox while appearing for the second consecutive day.

Elbert, a starting pitcher for most of his checkered career, thus moved another step closer to landing a job in the Dodgers bullpen. Despite walking six of the first 10 batters he faced this spring, he has turned around his game while allowing only two hits in 5 2/3 innings.

He has seven strikeouts, including right-handed hitter Paul Konerko and left-handed hitter A.J. Pierzynski in the eighth inning on Wednesday after allowing a leadoff single to Alex Rios.

Successfully slowing down the game with measured breathing and other little tricks, Elbert also is rebounding from a 2010 season in which he left Triple-A Albuquerque midseason to deal with personal issues that he later said involved handling stress.

Although pitching out of jams as a situational left-hander comes with its own set of stress, Elbert is willing.

"I'm not sure of my role, but getting lefties out is my No. 1 priority," he said. "As long as it helps out the team, I'm game to do anything."