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04/30/09 8:41 PM ET

Kuroda improving, still weeks from return

Dodgers right-hander could start playing catch this weekend

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers Opening Day starter Hiroki Kuroda reported improvement from his strained left oblique muscle on Thursday, but he won't begin playing catch until the weekend and is likely weeks away from returning to the starting rotation.

"I feel I'm getting much better," Kuroda said. "Now I've come this far and I won't rush it. It all depends on what Stan [Conte, head trainer] and the doctors say."

According to Conte, Kuroda will see Dr. Neal ElAttrache Friday and might resume playing catch this weekend. ElAttrache gave Kuroda a cortisone injection Monday because of lingering soreness in the injury that surfaced after an April 10 bullpen session.

"There's no way to make a schedule," Conte said.

Kuroda must be completely pain free, Conte said, before he will be allowed to resume even playing catch. Oblique muscles tend to linger, especially with the trunk torque generated by pitchers, and the muscles must be completely healed or the inflammation quickly returns.

Kuroda said he doesn't need to throw a baseball to tell the injection has worked.

"Before, even when I sneezed, it hurt," he said. "Now, I don't feel the pain anymore. My ultimate goal is to get back on the mound. Whatever I could do, I wanted to do, and the injection was one of the options, and I'm glad I did it."

Kuroda said he has continued his shoulder-strengthening exercises so the inactivity doesn't take a toll on his arm.

Kuroda has made only one start, allowing one run in 5 2/3 innings of an Opening Day win over San Diego. Eric Stults has started four times in his place, going 2-1 with a 5.50 ERA.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.