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02/24/11 3:38 PM EST

Padilla 'feeling great' after arm surgery

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers pitcher Vicente Padilla had successful surgery on the entrapped radial nerve on his throwing arm Thursday morning and could begin a throwing program in three or four weeks.

However, the length of Padilla's throwing program and the role he will resume when he is healthy is still to be determined. Padilla is expected back in Arizona on Friday.

"There's a very small pain that you get when you have surgery but overall, I'm feeling great. I feel like I have a new arm," Padilla told MLB.com. "They said it might take a month of rehab but maybe I can do it faster. We will see how my arm feels."

Padilla was examined by Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday at Camelback Ranch-Glendale and sent to Los Angeles on Tuesday for testing after experiencing pain following a Sunday bullpen session.

The 33-year-old right-hander was signed to an incentive-laden contract (with a $2 million base) after battling through the arm problem and a bulging disk in his neck last year. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Padilla's health history was taken into account both in the negotiations and the decision to have Padilla be a reliever instead of a starter.

Last season, Padilla went 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 2010 and made only 16 starts. He experienced similar discomfort last Spring Training but pitched through it and was the Dodgers' Opening Day starter, allowing the Pirates seven runs in 4 1/3 innings.

"The best-case scenario for us is that he toss the baseball around a little bit before we leave [Spring Training]," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Getting him healthy is No. 1. When he is healthy, he can compete with anybody. I think at this point, the priority is to get him healthy."

The right-hander was signed as a free agent during the stretch run of 2009 after being released by the Texas Rangers. He went 4-0 with the Dodgers and stepped up with dominant starts in the playoffs to earn a $5.025 million, one-year contract for 2010.

"I feel relieved," Padilla said. "I'm looking forward to getting back."

Jesse Sanchez is a national reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB. MLB.com reporter Ken Gurnick contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.