LOS ANGELES -- The questions about Vicente Padilla's return may finally have an answer. For the Dodgers, it's not one they were hoping for.
Padilla, the righty reliever who went on the disabled list May 14, will have surgery on his neck Thursday that could force him to miss the rest of the season. Manager Don Mattingly said missing the remainder of the season is possible, but he preferred to use the phrase "extended period of time."
"Anybody that's having neck surgery, you're not expecting a two-week period of time before he's going to be back throwing," Mattingly said.
Mattingly didn't give specifics on the surgery, noting it had to do with a disk in Padilla's neck. He added the team will have a more accurate analysis of Padilla's situation after the surgery.
Padilla was nearly set to return from a forearm injury two weeks ago, when his return was pushed back with the neck problems. It is the same neck injury he suffered last season.
This year, Padilla has a 4.15 ERA with three saves in nine appearances.
Dodgers fans get first home look at Gordon
LOS ANGELES -- There are plenty of adjectives Don Mattingly could have used to describe Dee Gordon's game.
The one the Dodgers manager used repeatedly when he was asked about his rookie shortstop, who played his first game at Dodger Stadium on Monday, may have been the most fitting: "fun."
In his first six games, Gordon has impressed with his speed and athleticism, leading to stolen bases, infield hits and solid range at shortstop. On Monday night, Dodgers fans got a look at one of their top prospects in Chavez Ravine for the first time.
Mattingly said he had no concerns calling on a 23-year-old to lead off and play shortstop. Given the way he has seen Gordon carry himself thus far, Mattingly said talent is talent, no matter the age.
"It's baseball," Mattingly said. "If you can catch it and throw it and get a good pitch to hit, it's baseball."
Mattingly said he is especially pleased with the experienced infielders surrounding Gordon. In the past, he has seen less-than-helpful veterans, who were wary of losing their spot. With Gordon, that isn't the case.
"He's with a good group," Mattingly said. "I talked to him when he first came and told him to pay attention to Jamey [Carroll] and Aaron [Miles]. Those guys are guys that play the game right, prepare right."
In 23 at-bats this season entering Monday, Gordon had seven hits (.304) and a pair of stolen bases. Mattingly didn't use Gordon on Sunday, but he said that was simply to let him catch his breath at the end of a long road trip.
Gordon will become a regular at shortstop, Mattingly said. When Rafael Furcal returns from a strained side muscle, the Dodgers will re-evaluate the situation. But Mattingly wouldn't talk about Furcal's return, which is at least a couple of weeks away.
Mattingly dismissed the pressures of the leadoff spot for Gordon, saying if anything, being at the top of the order will help him.
"Deeper [in the order] is tough in this league," he said. "They'll mess with you a little more, and as a younger guy we felt like he'd get better pitches to hit."
Mattingly then paused and laughed, noting another reason Gordon will be likely to see good pitches throughout his career: his basestealing ability.
"Obviously," Mattingly said with a smile. "You don't want to walk Dee."
Dodgers hoping for full day off for Blake
LOS ANGELES -- For the third straight day, third baseman Casey Blake was not in the Dodgers lineup Monday because of a stiff neck.
If Don Mattingly needed him, for the third straight day he'd use him coming off the bench. Ideally, however, the Dodgers manager said he'd like to finally get Blake the full day off.
"If we had to use him, we still would," Mattingly said before Monday's game. "But we'd like to get him over that hump and get him to where he's comfortable with the movement of the neck."
Blake, who is hitting .264 this season with three home runs and 16 RBIs, said his neck is sore, but if called upon, he could "still put a good swing on it."
"When I get hits, I don't really feel it," Blake joked to the media. "It's when I make an out is when I feel it."
The Dodgers bench has gotten healthier in recent weeks, and Mattingly said he is comfortable giving Blake time off with Juan Uribe back and Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles swinging the bats well.
"While he's getting back to 100 percent, I think we have the combination of guys that allows us to do it without feeling like it'll really hurt the club," Mattingly said.
Dodgers looking forward to relievers' returns
LOS ANGELES -- Even with the bad news that Vicente Padilla will undergo neck surgery, relief appears to be on the way for a beleaguered Dodgers bullpen.
It won't be immediate, but both Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo are making progress, manager Don Mattingly said.
Jansen pitched an inning Monday night with Double-A Chattanooga in what might be his final rehab appearance. Kuo, out since May 9 with an anxiety disorder, threw a bullpen session before Monday's game.
Mattingly said he hoped to have Jansen (shoulder) come into a game with runners on base to see how he handles pitching from the stretch, and the Dodgers skipper got his wish. Jansen entered the game after a leadoff triple in the seventh, struck out the next batter, issued an intentional walk, then got a flyout that turned into an inning-ending double play when the runner was thrown out at home.
The Dodgers now will decide if he is ready. Thus far, Jansen has thrown to 12 batters and retired all but one (the intentional walk) in three rehab outings.
As for Kuo, Mattingly said he has been impressed with his lighthearted demeanor during his rehab. His next outing, Mattingly said, would probably be with Triple-A Albuquerque, but to play it safe, he might give him another chance with Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Given the nature of Kuo's stint on the disabled list, Mattingly said most of the rehab process is up to the lefty reliever.
"We've kind of left this in his hands because he's really the one who knows," Mattingly said. "It's going good so we'll let him keep kind of dictating which way this goes."
For now, however, the Dodgers are using a 'pen that has been stretched thin by 10 games in 10 days, the last four of which came at Coors Field in Colorado. Mattingly was hoping Monday's starter, Hiroki Kuroda, could give the relievers a much-needed break.
"[We] hope that Hiro gives us a game," Mattingly said. "He's been pitching well, so we'll count on him to keep us in the game and we'll do what we have to do when we get to those innings."
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.