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03/25/12 8:34 PM ET

Stiff neck could sideline Lilly for opening series

Lefty could miss scheduled Cactus League start on Tuesday

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly's recurring stiff neck could cost him his Tuesday Cactus League start, which would leave his status for the first series of the regular season uncertain.

Lilly missed a bullpen session Saturday, was off the field Sunday and manager Don Mattingly said the lefty might miss his next scheduled start Tuesday. His spot in the opening series rotation would come up on Saturday, April 7.

"We don't think it's major," said Mattingly, "but [if Lilly misses] a few more days, it can throw a monkey wrench into what we're doing."

Because of an off-day, Lilly and fifth starter Chris Capuano could swap slots in the opening rotation and Lilly's first start wouldn't be until April 14.

Mattingly said he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt have not drawn up alternate plans yet because Lilly still could make the Tuesday start. If not, Honeycutt said the Dodgers would use a Minor Leaguer.

"It could change things," Mattingly said of Lilly missing more time. "It sounds like he slept funny, and he has trouble turning his head. He's been throwing good. The last thing you want is to push him forward and end up going backward. Actually, the first series off-day gives us flexibility."

Lilly left a start early last August because of neck stiffness and at the time underwent acupuncture therapy, which appeared to resolve the problem.

If Lilly is unable to open the season on the roster, the logical replacement is Nathan Eovaldi, who has allowed one earned run in 10 2/3 innings this spring.

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