Daily Distractions: Are you ready for some ping pong?

Clayton Kershaw ping pong

Clayton Kershaw and Neil Patrick Harris once stood on opposite sides of a ping-pong table. (courtesy the Jimmy Kimmel show)

The Dodgers’ best pitcher has already used his prowess on the mound to raise awareness and considerable money for charity. Since he’s the best table tennis player on the Dodgers too, why not keep a good thing going?

Tomorrow night, Dodger Stadium will morph into the most star-studded, expensive, baseball-park-turned-ping-pong venue we’ve heard of. For $1,000, you can watch Kershaw, his manager, and some of his Hollywood pals and Dodger teammates whack around some small white balls for charity. For $2,000 (individual) or $10,000 (group), you can join in.

“Modern Family” actor Eric Stonestreet will emcee the event and DJ Skee will control the music. Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson is scheduled to participate, as is Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. (We’re hoping for some NBA-related smack talk between the two.) Among those also scheduled to participate: Jason Bateman, Adrian Gonzalez, Ken Jeong, Alyssa Milano, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Larry King, Tony La Russa, Maria Menounos, Lamorne Morris, Christopher “Drama” Pfaff, Ben Lyons, Willie McGinest, Tim Federowicz, Matthew Perry, George Lopez, Andre Ethier, Josh Henderson, J.P. Howell, Mardy Fish, Rick Honeycutt, Jerry Hairston Jr., Drew Kenney, and A.J. Ellis.

The tournament is scheduled to take place from 6 to 10 p.m. Here’s some more information.

Kershaw pitched well last night and today is Don Denkinger‘s birthday. On that note:
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Clayton Kershaw’s unusually bad start wasn’t all that bad.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is visited on the mound by teammates and Dodgers assistant athletic trainer Greg Harrel after being struck by a line drive in the sixth inning. (John McCoy/Staff Photographer)

Clayton Kershaw dispatched the old “didn’t have my best stuff” line tonight, which is almost plausible.

The 25-year-old left-hander, in the midst of perhaps the best season ever by a Dodgers pitcher, did something he hadn’t done since April: He was pulled before he could complete six innings.

Some other Kershaw streaks of note ended in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs:
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Corey Seager among eight Dodgers listed on preliminary Arizona Fall League rosters.

Corey Seager

Dodgers prospect Corey Seager will play in the Arizona Fall League. (Associated Press photo)

Corey Seager was among eight Dodgers listed on the preliminary rosters for the Arizona Fall League, an off-season development circuit for the majors’ top prospects.

Seager, the Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2012, will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs, based out of Camelback Ranch. He’ll be joined by catchers Pratt Maynard and Chris O’Brien (Rancho Cucamonga), outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez (Chattanooga), and four Dodgers pitchers to be named later.

Seager, 19, was promoted from low-A Great Lakes to high-A affiliate Rancho Cucamonga at midseason and batted .165 with four home runs in 21 games after the promotion. With Great Lakes, the shortstop batted .309 with 12 homers in 74 games.

Minnesota Twins outfield prospect Byron Buxton, who was chosen the number one prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America, is also on the Desert Dogs’ roster.

Jeff Smith, a coach in the Twins’ organization, will manage the squad. The AFL begins play on October 8.

Matt Kemp runs the bases, ready for minor-league rehabilitation assignment.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp confers with the Dodgers’ medical staff and manager Don Mattingly on the infield after running the bases Tuesday afternoon. (J.P. Hoornstra via Instagram)

Matt Kemp is at least two days away from beginning a minor-league rehabilitation assignment after running the bases at close to full speed Tuesday.

“I was a little skeptical. It turned out to be really, really good,” Kemp said. “It was pretty fun to go out there and run. It’s been a while.”

Kemp has been on the disabled list since sustaining what is believed to be a severe Grade 2 ankle sprain on July 21. Running the bases at game speed was the most significant milestone Kemp needed to clear before he could be sent out.

There was some question as to when and where Kemp’s rehab stint would begin, but that was cleared up with his positive prognosis Tuesday.

(View our video interview with Kemp on Tout here and here)

“I’m not going to the spring training complex,” Kemp said. “I’ll go to Rancho (Cucamonga) or wherever they send me, but I’ll be around here in Cali somewhere.”
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Daily Distractions: What Matt Harvey’s injury really means for Clayton Kershaw.

Matt Harvey‘s 2013 season is over. His 2014 season will almost certainly be shortened, if he has one at all.

In case you missed yesterday’s big news, Harvey, the electric New York Mets right-hander, has a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He will try to avoid Tommy John surgery by receiving a platelet-rich plasma injection instead.

Chad Billingsley found himself in a similar position around this time last year. We don’t know how Harvey’s ligament tear compares to Billingsley’s, but we do know how that course of treatment worked out for Billingsley.

Harvey is the latest pitcher to face the dreaded torn UCL but he certainly won’t be the last. So once you’ve accepted that the National League Cy Young award is essentially Clayton Kershaw‘s to lose, here’s a more important long-term question presented by Harvey’s injury: Is Kershaw likely to suffer the same injury anytime soon?

One-third of all major-league pitchers have had Tommy John surgery, according to a recent study by Bleacher Report. So there’s that. There’s also this analysis today via FanGraphs that concludes “it was all but impossible to know this injury was coming.”

Delving into the specifics, author Jeff Zimmerman a small drop in Harvey’s fastball velocity in his past six games. This is not a problem for Kershaw at the moment. Check out Zimmerman’s other possible red-flags. Kershaw should have nothing to worry about.

Of course, neither did Harvey.

A few more links for a Tuesday morning:
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Matt Kemp rehabilitation scenarios becoming more clear.

Matt KempThere was no true update on Matt Kemp‘s condition Monday. The center fielder took a day off his rehab program as he attempts to come back from what’s believed to be a severe Grade 2 ankle sprain, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Kemp will try to run the bases tomorrow.

The day off wasn’t a setback, more of a planned resting point, and there have been no real setbacks so far — just a slower healing process than the Dodgers hoped for Kemp.

There’s still some hope that Kemp can play in a minor-league rehab game before he returns to the Dodgers, which presents some interesting scenarios.
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Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke aiming for a personal honor tonight.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke is in the early running for National League pitcher of the month for August. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers have a 9 ½ game lead on the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks entering their three-game series against the Chicago Cubs. Tonight’s pitcher, Zack Greinke, would like to give the Dodgers some more breathing room in the standings, not that they need much.

Greinke also has a personal milestone at stake, and unless the Diamondbacks can make things interesting in the next five weeks, the personal milestones will occupy much of this space.

Greinke was selected as the 2009 American League April Pitcher of the Month while with Kansas City. He hasn’t won the award in either league since. Through four starts in August, the right-hander is 4-0 with a 0.96 earned-run average (3 ER/28.0 IP). He’s allowed just one run in his last 21 ⅔ innings dating to August 10 and has won nine of his last 10 decisions since June 22, ranking fourth in the Majors with a 2.14 ERA (20 ER/84.0 IP) in 12 starts in that span.

No one will ever accuse the Dodgers of underpaying Greinke, whose six-year, $159 million deal signed last December was the richest ever at the time for a right-hander. (Felix Hernandez has since laid waste to Greinke’s claim.) However, when his ERA was at 4.30 back on July 3, Greinke certainly heard accusations of being overpaid — especially considering his month-plus on the disabled list following an ill-advised brawl with Carlos Quentin in San Diego.

That seems like a long, long time ago.

Today’s lineups:
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Daily Distractions: Starting pitching, the secret sauce in a series loss.

Jake  Peavy

Jake Peavy allowed only a solo home run in a complete-game win over the Dodgers on Sunday. (David Crane/Staff Photographer)

The Red Sox know they caught a break over the weekend, just like the Chicago Cubs know they will not in the coming days.

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke never threw a pitch for the Dodgers against the Red Sox. That’s a huge reason why the Dodgers dropped a series for the first time in two months. The way the Dodgers’ aces have been pitching lately, avoiding Kershaw and Greinke is like playing the Chicago Bulls between 1990 and 1993 on a night when Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were both hurt. (That never happened, for the record.)

After the Red Sox won the final game of the series Sunday — the Dodgers’ first series loss in more than two months — manager John Farrell complimented the performance of his starting pitchers. Jake Peavy threw a complete game Sunday, John Lackey threw a complete game Friday in a loss, and Jon Lester won the middle game with 7 ⅓ strong innings.

“The credit to our team is that we’ve stayed consistent, and the only way you can stay consistent is starting pitching and those guys have done it,” Farrell said. “Those guys have done a really good job. Even when a guy has a bad outing, the next guy picks him up.”

If that were Mattingly talking about the Dodgers’ staff, no one would be surprised.

Farrell also knows that it’s a double-edged sword, that he dodged a bullet by missing Kershaw and Greinke. Greinke, who starts against the Cubs tonight, has the majors’ lowest ERA since the All-Star break (1.41). Kershaw has the lowest ERA overall this season (1.72).

“Those are two very good pitchers, in those two guys,” Farrell said. “It’s just how the schedule unfolded.”

Meanwhile, MLB.com asked Cubs manager Dale Sveum about seeing Greinke and Kershaw the next two nights. His response: “Why did you have to bring that up? Let’s talk about something else.”

OK. Let’s:
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Dodgers pitcher Chris Withrow betrayed twice by fastball command.

Chris Withrow

Dodgers reliever Chris Withrow (center) has seen his ERA rise by more than a full run this week by virtue of three runs allowed on fastballs. (Getty Images)

It wasn’t the reason the Dodgers lost the game or the series, but Chris Withrow allowed two home runs to the Boston Red Sox in an 8-1 defeat Sunday.

Withrow allowed both home runs — a two-run blast by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and a solo shot by Shane Victorino — on 96 mph fastballs down the middle of the plate. That’s simply the worst spot a pitcher can leave a pitch. The rookie right-hander threw two innings in relief of Chris Capuano and was charged with three runs, all earned, to end a rough week on the mound.
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ESPN broadcaster John Kruk taken to hospital prior to game.

ESPN broadcaster and former major-league first baseman John Kruk was taken to a local hospital as a precautionary measure prior to the start of tonight’s game between the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox.

Kruk was assisted out of the ESPN broadcast booth at Dodger Stadium through the press box dining room and left with Mike McQuade, ESPN’s vice president of remote production. Play-by-play man Dan Shulman and analyst Curt Schilling are broadcasting the game without Kruk.

Witnesses said that the 42-year-old Kruk was conscious at the time he left. Kruk has diabetes and had just eaten a pregame meal, but it’s unknown if his hospitalization is related to the diabetes. ESPN is expected to provide an update on Kruk’s condition at some point tonight.

5:30 p.m. update: ESPN issued the following statements through its Baseball Tonight Twitter account: