LOS ANGELES -- With the Dodgers badly in need of a win to halt a skid in which they've dropped six of nine games, the club will turn to a pitcher making his first start of the season.

After missing the first two weeks because of a strained left oblique, Jon Garland is set to take the mound for the Dodgers in Friday's game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Garland went 14-12 with a 3.47 ERA in 200 innings with the Padres last year, and the Dodgers gave Garland a one-year, $5 million contract with the intention of making him their fifth starter.

"Hopefully, Jon gives us that outing that you want and keeps us in the ballgame," manager Don Mattingly said after the Dodgers' 9-5 loss to the Cardinals on Thursday.

Garland went 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in six September starts in 2009 with the Dodgers after a late-season trade, but he's 1-4 with a 5.02 ERA in five career starts against the Cardinals.

Jamie Hoffmann, who started Thursday's game in left field, was optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room on the active roster Garland.

Hoffmann makes first start in nearly two years

LOS ANGELES -- Jamie Hoffmann didn't know what exactly was in store for him when he was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday. With the Dodgers scheduled to face a number of lefties, he knew he'd see some action. But it wasn't until he got to the ballpark Thursday and saw his name listed in the lineup that he realized he'd get to start a Major League game for the first time since May 31, 2009.

"Saw my name on the lineup. I was pretty pumped up," Hoffmann said. "It has been a while since I've started a game up here."

With Marcus Thames currently battling a sore quad and the Cardinals throwing left-hander Jaime Garcia, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly opted to go with the right-handed-hitting Hoffmann in left field.

"Hoffy plays good defense, gives us a little speed and he's here," Mattingly said. "We like him, so he'll get a shot."

Mattingly said Thames was available to pinch-hit if needed.

Hoffmann had a nice Spring Training with the Dodgers, hitting .350 (7-for-20) with two doubles and one RBI in 14 games. His momentum carried over to New Mexico, where he went 5-for-11 with a double and two RBIs in four games with the Isotopes.

Hoffmann, who grounded out in a pinch-hit appearance Monday in San Francisco, said before the he wasn't sure how long he'll stay with the Dodgers. His one other stint in the Majors lasted about three weeks -- but it was a memorable three weeks. On just the third at-bat of his career, Hoffmann got both his first hit and first home run when he hit a three-run shot in a home game against the Angels on May 24, 2009.

"I'm just taking it day-by-day," Hoffmann said. "Believe me, I've got a smile on my face whenever I'm out here. I'm pumped up about it."

Hoffmann went 0-for-3 with a strikeout against the Cardinals in the Dodgers' 9-5 loss. After the game, Mattingly announced that Hoffmann would be optioned back to Albuquerque to make room on the active roster for Friday's starter Jon Garland, who was on the disabled list retroactive to March 22 with a strained left oblique.

Kuo experiencing location issues

LOS ANGELES -- In 60 innings last year, Dodgers left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo walked only 18 batters. The year before that, he surrendered 13 free passes in 30 innings. In 2008, he was even more efficient, issuing 21 walks in 80 innings on the mound.

In short, Kuo doesn't miss the strike zone very often, and he rarely does so four times in one at-bat.

At least not until this year, as Kuo has walked four batters in 2 2/3 innings. And while that's an admittedly small sample size, it's not something the Dodgers want to become a season-long trend.

"He's been a little rough, honestly," manager Don Mattingly said. "I haven't really seen it in the past since I've been here. He's had a couple of issues as far as his back here or there. I don't know if that's changed anything."

Mattingly said that Kuo had his back checked out during the Dodgers' series last week in San Diego, but Kuo hasn't given an indication that he's being inhibited in any way.

"They're not going to say, 'I can't go,' " Mattingly said. "They're basically going to try to take care of it and say, 'I can pitch and I can take care of it.' "

With Kuo there's always a concern that his location woes could be related to his arm, what with his four elbow operations, but Mattingly said there's no problem there.

"He's able to do all his work," Mattingly said. "He throws every day, he's like a machine. I don't think it's anything do with his arm.

"It's one of those situations where we've kind of gotten spoiled in the last couple of years with him. It's almost like it's lights out when he comes into the game. We'll just have to be a little more careful with him and just pay a little more attention to what's going on."

Worth noting

Mattingly announced that right-hander Vicente Padilla will throw a bullpen session Friday. Padilla has been on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 22 because of offseason forearm surgery.