LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers still plan to use a fifth starter next Sunday in San Diego and still plan to pick between John Ely, who is on the 40-man roster, and Tim Redding, who is not.

But manager Don Mattingly conceded Sunday that Jon Garland is lobbying to make that start as he improves rapidly from a strained oblique.

"He's trying to talk us into it," Mattingly said of Garland, who was signed to be the fifth starter after pitching for the Padres last year. "We'll see how that goes."

Both Ely and Redding will pitch Tuesday in an extended spring training game in Arizona, which puts them on schedule to pitch Sunday.

"We're happy with both guys," said Mattingly.

Whichever player is promoted will require the Dodgers to demote a player off the 25-man active roster. But adding Redding will also require guaranteeing his $750,000 contract and moving a player off the 40-man roster to make room for him.

Mattingly said Vicente Padilla pitched four innings in a simulated game, which makes him close to returning from radial nerve surgery. And outfielder Jay Gibbons, adjusting to new contact lenses, will have a rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque before he returns.

Blake lobbying for early return from DL

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake not only made progress the past week recovering from a bad back, he's now making progress talking the club into activating him for Thursday's game in Colorado.

That would be the first date he's eligible to come off the disabled list. Manager Don Mattingly originally said he hoped to bring back Blake for the weekend series in San Diego, but Blake said he feels "good enough to compete" and Mattingly said he's thinking about it.

"It sounds like he's ready," said Mattingly. "He feels there's nothing more to do. We'll see. We're thinking about it. The only thing I'm uncomfortable with is three days without playing. Off-days in the middle of the season, guys come back fine. Off early in the season, sometimes you don't."

Blake had been getting eight or nine at-bats in Minor League games at the club's Camelback Ranch in Arizona, but the Minor League teams broke camp Saturday and begin their seasons Thursday. So there are no more games in which Blake can play to fine-tune his batting stroke, now that he believes his back is completely healed.

"It was tough on me watching games on TV; it's a difficult perception for me," Blake said. "It lit the fire more to get back here with my teammates and compete with them.

"I plan to go to Colorado and if I stay with the team, I'd like to play as soon as I could. I don't make that call. They don't want me to sit around and not face live pitching."

Indians cut ties with Mattingly's son

LOS ANGELES -- The Cleveland Indians on Sunday released Minor Leaguer Preston Mattingly, son of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.

"He called me. He knew three days ago," Don Mattingly said. "He's thinking about what he wants to do. He told me he'll walk on at Kentucky [in basketball]."

Mattingly made the basketball comment with a smile, but his son's hoop skills are no joke. The younger Mattingly was a two-sport star when the Dodgers drafted him in the supplemental first round of 2006 and gave him a $1 million signing bonus.

But Mattingly, 23, never hit like his dad. In five Minor League seasons, he had a .232 career average with 20 home runs, never reaching higher than Class A. Last September the Dodgers traded him to the Indians for outfielder Roman Pena.

Mattingly, however, has become something of a YouTube sensation for a video of basketball trick shots.