MRI shows Jon Garland has strain

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jon Garland said Thursday morning that while he continues to cling to a sliver of hope that he won't begin the season on the 15-day disabled list, the reality is that he probably will.

Garland said an MRI exam he underwent on Wednesday showed that, as expected, he has a strained left oblique muscle.

"I'm always going to hold to that hope [of avoiding the DL]," Garland said. "But the Vegas odds aren't looking too good right now."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after meeting with trainer Stan Conte that Garland will be shut down from any physical activity for the next four or five days, and that Conte didn't give him a firm timetable for when to expect Garland back.

"He said in general, these things on average take 30 to 32 days," Mattingly said. "Obviously, that has been the history with this kind of thing. I think probably the biggest concern is that. ... It's hard for him to do anything right now. The only silver lining for us is when we need a fifth guy."

Because the Dodgers have two off-days within the first eight days of the season, they can get by without a fifth starter until their 11th game of the season on April 12 at San Francisco.

There is a slight chance Garland could be ready by then. If he isn't, the likely fill-in would be either John Ely or non-roster invitee Tim Redding, both of whom have at least some major league experience, both of whom are on starter's programs in spring training and neither of whom has given up a run so far in the Cactus League.

"Both of them have pitched well, not necessarily for most of the spring yet but for at least a substantive part of the spring," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.

The Dodgers' season opener is three weeks away, and oblique strains typically take at least that long to fully heal.

"I have been told a month, month and a half," said Garland, who hasn't been on the DL since he was a rookie with the Chicago White Sox in 2000, when he was hit by a line drive. "But to me, it depends on the person."

Garland made his second Cactus League start Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners and knelt down in pain after throwing his 30th pitch in the top of the second inning. Minutes later, he walked off the field with Conte, Garland clutching the left side of his stomach all the way.

The Dodgers signed Garland this winter to a one-year, $5 million contract with an $8 million club option for 2012, planning for him to be their fifth starter. One thing that made him more attractive to the Dodgers than some other free-agent starters was his durability, his ability to avoid the DL and the fact he has pitched at least 200 innings in six of the past seven seasons.

Now, the club has lost both Garland and Vicente Padilla, the guy who would have stepped into the rotation in the event of an injury to one of the five starters.

Padilla, who had surgery in February to free a nerve that was trapped under a muscle in his right forearm, is expected to miss about a month of the regular season.

Colletti said that if the Dodgers begin the season with only four starters, that could create an extra opening in the bullpen, or the club could simply carry an extra position player until either Garland or Padilla is ready to be activated.

That could buy time for longtime outfield prospect Xavier Paul, who is out of minor league options and for whom the Dodgers don't appear to have an obvious opening on their roster.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.