DENVER -- Manager Don Mattingly said his injured Dodgers seemed to be slightly improved Sunday.

Ted Lilly, who came out of Saturday's start in the fifth inning with a stiff neck, is still on track to make his Friday start, although because of Thursday's off-day Lilly could be pushed back without requiring anybody to pitch on short rest.

Casey Blake reported improvement in his neck and arm discomfort and was able to throw and hit off a tee.

Andre Ethier returned to the lineup after missing two starts with an infected big right toe and Rod Barajas was available Sunday but didn't start two days after leaving a game with a tight groin muscle.

With the bullpen used thoroughly Saturday and shorthanded, Mattingly said Hiroki Kuroda volunteered to hold off on his bullpen session in order to pitch Sunday, if needed.

Loney prepared to aid taxed bullpen

DENVER -- Dodgers first baseman James Loney threw a bullpen session Sunday.

Seriously.

After using his entire bullpen in Saturday's 13-inning loss to the Rockies, manager Don Mattingly reluctantly told Loney he was the emergency reliever if the situation arose Sunday "and we had one of those weird games." Loney, a two-way star in high school that some scouts believed was a better pitching prospect than hitter, was thrilled.

"He told me he could pick guys off. I just want him to throw strikes," Mattingly said. "He thinks he's coming in the eighth with second and third and he'll punch out two guys. He's kind of excited."

Although in Sunday's starting lineup at first base, Loney sprinted to the bullpen 75 minutes before game time for some last-minute pointers from bullpen coach Ken Howell and closer Javy Guerra. And he didn't need to borrow a pitcher's glove, because he has one with his name embroidered on it.

"For days like today, right?" Loney said.

Loney called the session a "touch-and-feel" with bullpen catcher Rob Flippo. Displaying a natural lefty's windup, albeit occasionally short-arming the follow-through, Loney threw all four pitches -- fastball, sinker, curve and changeup. He said he's messed around throwing off a mound since the Dodgers drafted him in the first round of 2003, but "this was a little more serious."

Mattingly watched the session from the dugout with trepidation, saying something to the effect that Loney will have trouble brushing his teeth Monday because he's not used to throwing so hard. Mattingly, also a first baseman, said he never pitched after high school.

It was also pointed out to Mattingly that Aaron Miles, whose versatility knows no limit, appeared in five Major League games as a pitcher for Tony La Russa's Cardinals. The right-hander tossed five one-inning appearances -- four of them scoreless -- for an overall 3.60 ERA.

"My bullpen just got deeper," said Mattingly.

Mattingly said he would try to stay away from Scott Elbert and Matt Guerrier in Sunday's rubber match. Also, Guerra made 32 pitches Saturday, 15 on Todd Helton's game-changing at-bat that ended with an RBI double.

Oeltjen's inside-the-parker stirs memories

DENVER -- Trent Oeltjen's inside-the-park home run Saturday was the first by a Dodger since Blake DeWitt three years ago, and the feat was almost as rare as the triple-play the Dodgers hit into earlier in the trip.

Tony Gwynn Jr. hit two inside-the-park homers playing in San Diego, while Casey Blake had one while with Cleveland.

"It was a few years back, when I could run a bit," joked Blake.

Matt Kemp, James Loney, Jamey Carroll, Andre Ethier, Juan Rivera -- none of them has one.

Coach Manny Mota, though, recalls two Dodgers -- he and Willie Davis -- legging out inside-the-parkers in the same game. It was June 11, 1972, against the Pirates at Dodger Stadium, with both coming off right-hander Bruce Kison.

"I hit one down the left-field line, Willie hit one down the right-field line, both outfielders waited for the ball to kick back to them but it stayed along the railing and shot past and they had to chase the ball toward center field," said Mota. "That's exciting baseball."

Manager Don Mattingly remembers hitting one in Yankee Stadium down the right-field line against the Red Sox when the outfielder tried to make a play and nearly got knocked out running into the railing.

Dee Gordon said his most memorable inside-the-park homer is one he didn't get credit for this year at Triple-A Albuquerque.

"I was rounding third with my head down and looked up and the umpire was right in front of me and I smashed into him," said Gordon. "When Lo [manager Lorenzo Bundy] came out to argue, the umpire said I was running too fast and he couldn't get out of my way."