LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers right-hander Vicente Padilla could be nearing a return to the mound, while shortstop Rafael Furcal's way back remains stalled.

Padilla, on the disabled list on April 25 with a sore right elbow, could throw off a mound in the next couple of days, manager Joe Torre said on Monday. Padilla impressed pitching coach Rick Honeycutt with the life in his arm after consecutive days of throwing.

Once Padilla has successfully gotten back on the hill, Torre said the team could then discuss a schedule for his return, which was previously targeted broadly for June.

"Once he starts throwing off a mound, we can put a timetable on it," Torre said.

Furcal, on the DL since May 4, said on Monday his strained left hamstring still feels about 85 percent. He had hoped to be ready to go by last Friday, when he was eligible to come off the disabled list.

"He's frustrated right now," Torre said. "I think he's going to have to be tested out here before we can decide to send him somewhere. The first-to-third [base] thing is what's got him. For someone who doesn't rely on his speed, this wouldn't be as important. Furcal needs to be 100 percent."

The 32-year-old Padilla was 1-1 with a 6.65 ERA in four starts. Furcal was a spark at the top of the lineup with a .309 batting average, 16 runs scored, 6 RBIs and eight stolen bases. He had not homered this season.

Dodgers nearing DL decision on Ethier

LOS ANGELES -- While awaiting team doctor Neal ElAttrache to arrive at Dodger Stadium before a night game with the Astros on Monday, Andre Ethier played catch in the outfield -- sort of.

Ethier, who broke his right pinkie on Saturday during batting practice in San Diego, made throws from the left-field foul line to Matt Kemp in center field, but did not catch the ball himself. Ethier's pinkie is in a splint, which prevents it from bending at the first knuckle, closer to the tip, but allows the second knuckle to bend. Ethier was still in pain on Monday, manager Joe Torre said.

Torre said the team would need ElAttrache's analysis before deciding whether Ethier will have to go to the disabled list. If Ethier does attempt to play through the injury, which can heal only with time and stabilization through the splint that's already in place, Torre said he wants to be sure there's no chance Ethier is set back by doing so.

"I'd like him to try to [swing the bat], but you're going to have to be comfortable because if it's it's irritating to the point of keeping you from finishing swings, it does us no good," Torre said. "I'm not anxious to put him on the DL."

Ethier, batting .392 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs, is still leading or tied for the lead in all the National League triple crown categories.

"He's disappointed. It's one of those freak things, too. "It's not like he got hit by a pitch or something," Torre said. "His finger sort of got stuck and he continued to swing, which is not unusual for him where he pinches it a little bit."

Torre said the team is better able to deal with any potential loss of Ethier because of the last two seasons, when Manny Ramirez sat out a 50-game suspension in 2009 and Rafael Furcal missed 125 games because of a lower back injury in '08.

Johnson gets Ethier's playing time for now

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Reed Johnson, batting .224, started in place of Andre Ethier on Monday against the Astros and will likely see most of the playing time in Ethier's place, along with Garret Anderson, if Ethier is not placed on the disabled list.

Ethier broke his right pinkie during batting practice on Saturday in San Diego. Johnson, 0-for-4 with a strikeout on Sunday in a 1-0 win over the Padres, hadn't had a hit in 14 at-bats since May 1 until his first-inning single on Monday.

"It's a lot easier when you're playing every day. You can get into a rhythm, it's definitely more of a challenge," Johnson said. "You have to get into routines to stay sharp. "It's more of a timing issue right now for me. If you looked at my swing now compared to the beginning of the season when I was hot, it'd be like splitting hairs to try to find something wrong."

If Ethier does go to the disabled list, Triple-A Albuquerque outfielder Xavier Paul would be the "logical" choice to be called up, manager Joe Torre said Monday -- assuming Paul is healthy after being removed from a game early Saturday in Salt Lake City.

Paul was hit in the head during warmups with a thrown ball and was not initially removed from the lineup, but left the game to go to the hospital as a precaution. He missed Sunday's game but was in the lineup Monday night in Salt Lake City.

Paul filled in admirably when Manny Ramirez went down with a calf strain in April, batting .276 with eight runs scored and three stolen bases in nine games. He drove in one run, walked twice and struck out seven times in 29 at-bats.

Dodgers are doing it with pitching

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers pitchers have posted a 1.71 ERA and limited opposing hitters to a .174 average over the team's winning streak that began on May 9 -- both Major League bests during that span.

Chad Billingsley turned in 7 1/3 innings on Sunday in a 1-0 win over the Padres, a day after Clayton Kershaw allowed one run on three hits in seven innings in a 4-1 victory.

"The only common denominator is that we have pitched," manager Joe Torre said Monday. "I thought we were pretty consistent. The starters were terrific the last two games. We're playing well as a team. Andre [Ethier] not in the lineup is a blow to us, but we've shown a lot of determination."

Russell Martin, who has played in all but one of the Dodgers' 37 games, gets credit for some of the outstanding pitching. Torre said all his catchers call their own pitches -- something he's always allowed.