GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Is Darren Dreifort, who hasn't pitched since 2004, considering a comeback?

Dreifort visited Camelback Ranch this week as a guest instructor on the Minor League side. And while he was there in uniform, he threw a bullpen session and batting practice and hinted at a return to the mound for real. He'll be 39 in May.

Dreifort retired prematurely at age 32 -- last pitching in a game in 2004 -- because of a rare condition that cursed him with weak connective tissue and led to a staggering 12 operations on his elbow, hip, knee, shoulder and ankle.

He downplayed this week's throwing off a mound, saying he's done it in the past at the Dodgers' development camp. But he also said he misses the game so much that he can't stand watching it and would rather play it.

"Who wouldn't [want to] play catch?" he said. "Some days I feel like I could still play. Some days I feel like I got run over by a truck. My hip and knee still give me trouble."

Dreifort -- who signed a five-year, $55 million contract in 2001 but pitched only three of those years during which he won only nine games -- said since retirement he's been a full-time dad to his three kids -- ages 5, 7 and 9. "The best kids in the world," he said.

He said he's enjoyed coaching them, but wasn't sure if he was cut out to be a coach at the professional level.

"With all of the travel and meetings, I wouldn't want to be away from my kids that much," Dreifort said. "It's been interesting being on this side of the fence this week. I'm just trying to stay out of the way and take it all in, help out if anybody wants it."

In addition to the connective tissue flaw, Dreifort was told by Dr. Marc Philippon -- the Vail, Colo., surgeon who did two of his hip labrum surgeries -- that a deformity in his femur not only led to his hip problems, but limited his ability to rotate properly. That might have set in motion the elbow and knee injuries.

However, Dreifort said he wasn't bitter that his body deserted him.

"I figured maybe it was supposed to end," he said. "I got divorced and needed to be home to be with my kids. I haven't regretted that at all."

With new contact lens, Gibbons returns to lineup

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- After getting a hit in his first at-bat with it on Thursday, Dodgers outfielder Jay Gibbons gave rave reviews to the new contact lens he just received.

"A night and day difference," said Gibbons, who was 2-for-22 at the plate before finally calling timeout and flying to San Francisco to see a pair of specialists this week.

"So far, so good. I won't get a hit every time. But in my mind, I'm starting Spring Training today. I first felt the difference just playing catch today, and it was almost a sigh of relief. Batting practice was a lot better. The first pitch I was able to lock in. I hope to get it going now."

Gibbons said the previous contact lens he was wearing wouldn't stay in his eye. He went to contacts when an offseason "touch-up", or laser surgery, he originally had in 2004 didn't go as planned. As a result, he came home early from winter ball but was hoping the situation would be resolved by the contact lens.

"They changed the prescription and gave me a flatter lens that seems to stay in more," he said. "My vision wasn't bad, but I felt I was going through the motions and didn't have the confidence that I was seeing things clearly."

"I'd like to see him healthy," said manager Don Mattingly when asked if Gibbons was a "lock" to make the club as a platoon left fielder. "If the vision thing isn't right and you can't swing a bat, you know the plan going in, but you want to see him with clear vision. If you can't see you can't hit, I'm telling you that right now."

Dodgers juggle upcoming rotation

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers have juggled their pitching rotation in an effort to stretch out some starters.

Ted Lilly, originally scheduled to start Friday on the road against the Giants, instead will start in a Minor League game. Top pitching prospect Rubby De La Rosa, who threw two scoreless innings in a start against the Cubs on Sunday in Las Vegas, will replace Lilly.

Tim Redding, making a run at the fifth-starter role -- with injuries to Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla -- was given a start in a Minor League game Thursday morning, with Chad Billingsley getting his regular start in the afternoon against the D-backs.

Redding is competing primarily with John Ely for that fifth-starter job, although the club might open the season with only four starters, because the fifth starter isn't needed until April 12.

Kuo feels he's ready to increase workload

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hong-Chih Kuo is hoping that his overpowering scoreless inning Thursday will convince the Dodgers to call off the "Kuo Program."

The Kuo Program is the club's kid-glove treatment of their talented reliever with the brittle left elbow. But he's pitched twice in three days now and said his arm feels fine.

"I just want to be like everybody else," said Kuo.

Kuo in no way is like everybody else, not as a nasty hard-thrower and certainly not for someone who has had two Tommy John operations and four left elbow surgeries total.

Hence, the Kuo Program, which this winter entailed only a two-week timeout, after which he threw continuously. In previous winters, he would shut down for five to six weeks.

Kuo said the change is probably the reason he feels good this spring. Last spring, he threw only two Cactus League innings and started the season on the disabled list.

Also pitching Thursday was starter Chad Billingsley, who made 83 pitches in five innings and was pleased with the way his changeup and curveball are progressing. Jonathan Broxton threw a scoreless inning that included a pair of strikeouts. And non-roster right-hander Mike MacDougal, who is likely to make the club, escaped a jam he created with a pair of walks to get a save in the ninth inning.

Dodgers reassign two to Minor League camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers further cut down their roster Thursday by reassigning outfielder Jerry Sands and infielder Justin Sellers to Minor League camp.

Sands made a big-time impression this spring, hitting .364 with two homers in 22 at-bats and a 1.235 OPS.

Sellers hit .250 and played three infield positions.