Matt Kemp isn’t in the Dodgers’ starting lineup, but Don Mattingly says it wasn’t an easy call.

Below are the career statistics for the Dodgers’ outfielders against Phillies starter Kyle Kendrick. Who would you sit?

PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG
Andre Ethier 25 22 6 2 0 2 7 3 1 .273 .360 .636 .996 0 0 0 0 1
Matt Kemp 15 15 6 0 0 0 1 0 3 .400 .400 .400 .800 0 0 0 0 0
Yasiel Puig 6 6 5 1 1 0 0 0 0 .833 .833 1.333 2.167 0 0 0 0 1
Carl Crawford 3 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667 0 0 0 0 0
Total 119 111 35 9 1 3 16 6 11 .315 .361 .495 .857 0 0 1 2 7

Unfortunately, your answer doesn’t count because you don’t fill out the lineup card. Don Mattingly does, and he chose to bench Matt Kemp. The question of why led Mattingly down a lengthy rabbit hole about the future of the Dodgers’ so-called “four outfielder problem.”

“Every day, this is really a bit of a problem for the most part,” Mattingly said. “This was not easy because Matt’s done pretty decent. So has Yasiel. All the guys I thought were pretty good. Just trying to do the best we can with it. … There will come a day when … where we’re going to put what we think is our best club.”

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Daily Distractions: After a long dry spell, Dodgers catchers are starting to hit.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz is batting .108 since being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

A.J. Ellis won’t be catching Clayton Kershaw‘s rehabilitation start Friday in Rancho Cucamonga.

The fact that this was even a possibility, 15 days after the catcher had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, is a bit mind-boggling. Ellis has been taking batting practice regularly, caught Kershaw’s bullpen session Tuesday, and is running on an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill — the same one that got Matt Kemp in shape during spring training.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that the initial 4-6 week timetable is still in play for Ellis, but that could change soon enough.

In the meantime, a couple trends have emerged. Drew Butera has caught three of Zack Greinke‘s last four starts. The term “personal catcher” hasn’t entered the discussion yet, but the two have had high praise for each other and Mattingly might choose to keep them paired together, even after Ellis returns.

Tim Federowicz has caught 10 games to Butera’s six since Ellis went down, and has just four hits in 37 at-bats. Two of those hits have come since Paul Goldschmidt whacked him in the left hand over the weekend.

“Each day is getting better,” Federowicz said Wednesday. “Right now I’m really focused on my defense. Offense will come. I’m not worried about it.”

Can fans be so patient?

In spite of the fact that the two healthy catchers have a modest three-game hitting streak, Federowicz and Butera are still batting a combined .145 (8 for 55) since Ellis had his surgery. For his part, Ellis was batting just .167 (4 for 24) before going on the DL.

The Dodgers might have bigger problems than this one, so it’s flown a bit under the radar. Just don’t expect to see any catchers batting higher than eighth unless one, at last, catches fire.

Some bullet points for a World Lab Animal Day:
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Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley has platelet rich plasma injection.

Chad Billingsley

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley allowed one run in 1 1/3 innings in a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on April 6. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers pitcher Chad Billingsley received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow Wednesday morning, designed to help expedite healing following a diagnosis of tendinitis. He’s been shut down from throwing for 5 to 7 days.

Tomorrow will be one year to the day since Billingsley underwent Tommy John surgery. The 29-year-old right-hander made great strides through spring training without any setbacks and started a rehab game April 6 for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. However, Billingsley lasted just 1 ⅓ innings in the game before the scar tissue in his elbow snapped.

Billingsley said his last bullpen session, seven days ago in San Francisco, went well.

“It was improving, starting to feel better,” he said. “This is icing.”

Billingsley said the tendinitis was an expected part of the rehab process.

“The way (Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache) explained it, it’s just stretching out,” the pitcher said.

It’s possible that Billingsley will accompany the Dodgers on their next road trip, a nine-day journey through Minneapolis, Miami and Washington D.C. beginning next Tuesday.

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw to begin rehabilitation assignment Friday in Rancho Cucamonga.

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will throw approximately 55 pitches Friday in a rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. (Associated Press photo)

Clayton Kershaw will make the first rehabilitation start of his career Friday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

No timetable has been set for his return to a major-league mound, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly confirmed that Kershaw will need at least two rehab starts total. He’s expected to throw approximately 55 pitches Friday — not much more than he threw in a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

“He came out of the bullpen good yesterday and we feel like we’re ready,” Mattingly said. “I don’t think anyone’s going to let him go out, even throw that sim game, if we weren’t allowing him just to go pitch.”

Kershaw hasn’t any setbacks in his recovery from a strained teres major muscle in his upper left back since he first threw off a mound 10 days ago.

In case you were wondering, tickets for the game are sold out except on the secondary market (links at the right). Dodgers prospect Julio Urias, 17, is expected to pitch after Kershaw. A Brian Wilson “bobble-beard” giveaway will take place that night.

Daily Distractions: Dodgers don’t make good rangers, among other problems in the field.

Hanley Ramirez

Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez committed one of two Dodger errors in a 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford wasn’t sure he could get to Carlos Ruiz‘s fly ball in the 10th inning Tuesday. There are two problems with this.

One, Crawford was able to get to the ball. (Check out the clip.) Ultimately he failed to recognize this and call off his shortstop, Hanley Ramirez.

Two, the reason Crawford didn’t know that he could get to the ball is because he has poor range for a left fielder. He basically admitted it afterwards, saying, “I didn’t think it was clearly my ball. That’s a long run for me.”

So if we’re really going to analyze the fielding woes that doomed the Dodgers in their 3-2 loss to Philadelphia last night, it’s not as simple as logging the number of errors (for the record, they have made errors in five straight games, a total of eight in that span). The best defensive metrics are never that simple.

What do the complicated metrics say?

FanGraphs’ Range Runs statistic measures the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, as determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity. Range Runs says that the Dodgers have four above-average fielders at their positions (among regulars): Yasiel Puig in right field (+2.3 runs), Juan Uribe at third (+2.2), Andre Ethier in center (+1.4) and even Crawford in left — albeit barely (+0.3).

Ethier has been below average this season when he shifts to right field (-0.5), as is Dee Gordon at second base (-0.2), Adrian Gonzalez at first base (-0.6), Hanley Ramirez at shortstop (-0.8) and Matt Kemp in center, by quite a bit (-2.0).

Translating that 2 into layman’s terms: The average center fielder has enough range to prevent two more runs from scoring than Kemp, and we’re less than a month into the season. That might be fine, except that Ethier and Crawford don’t offer much range in left and right, respectively. With Kemp in center, no wonder Puig acts like the only fielder capable of overcoming the limited range of literally every player around him — he is.

Maybe that’s why Kemp feels compelled to call off Puig on fly balls hit within 10 feet of him, which he did at one point Monday night.

A team’s fielding percentage tends to fluctuate with mistakes, like the occasional poor throw. Even Mark Ellis makes an occasional poor throw. Puig, for what it’s worth, hasn’t been charged with an error this season.

Range, however, is more fixed. So long as the body parts responsible for running are healthy — Crawford, Kemp, Ethier, Ramirez, Gonzalez and Gordon fall in this category — it’s unfair to expect significant improvement in their range. If anything, ordinary wear and tear might restrict their range further as the season goes on.

So it’s fairly safe to say the Dodgers have a range problem. Monday, Crawford complicated things by underestimating even his own range and not calling off Ramirez on a ball that should have been his.

It was a tough play to watch, and there will probably be more of those in the future.

Some bullet points for a Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day:
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Tony Gwynn Jr. says he wasn’t healthy during his final two years with the Dodgers.

Tony Gwynn Jr.Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. doesn’t regret his situation. He’s back in the major leagues after a year-and-a-half layoff. Monday, he was batting leadoff at Dodger Stadium. For the season, he’s batting .250 and is a regular in the Phillies’ outfield rotation.

If he could do anything over from the last two years, however, he admitted that he should have had surgery early in 2012. That’s when Gwynn first noticed the symptoms the led to his sports hernia surgery in September of last year.

The symptoms persisted throughout the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

“I didn’t want to have surgery at all,” he said. “I had just signed a 2-year deal at that point. The last thing you want to do is sign a deal then sit out a period of time. That’s what I was thinking at the time. But you live and you learn. You feel invincible when you’re younger. I learned the hard way that wasn’t the case.”
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Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, in 1 for 17 slump, insists his left hand is fine, timing is off.

Hanley Ramirez boldly claimed that his left hand is fine after going 0-for-3 with a walk in the Dodgers’ loss to the Philadelphia Phillies on Monday. Then he claimed — equally boldly — that he wouldn’t speak up if anything were wrong with his hand, which was struck by a pitch last Wednesday in San Francisco. Ramirez is 1 for 17 since.

“It is what it is right now,” he said. “But I’m 100 percent.”

Ramirez went on to lament his timing, saying “I’ve got to get back on track.” On Tuesday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly agreed.

“More than anything, Mac (hitting coach Mark McGwire) sees him every day. I see him every day. We know what’s going on.

“I feel like he’s healthy. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. That part I’m not worried about. I think he’s just a little bit off.”

Today could be a get-well game for Ramirez. He’s 3 for 5 with a home run and a walk in his career against Phillies starter A.J. Burnett.

Dodgers’ Andre Ethier battling head cold; availability in question for tonight’s game.

It’s hard to say whether or not Andre Ethier is available for the Dodgers’ game tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. In the clubhouse before the game, it was clear the outfielder was still recovering from a head cold. He said that’s all it is, a head cold, and that his condition is the “same as yesterday.”

Well, according to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, Ethier was so sick yesterday that he wasn’t available off the bench.

“We’ve got three guys — I wouldn’t say three — but a number of guys who aren’t recovering like the rest,” Mattingly said.

Ethier and Josh Beckett are two; Mattingly declined to name the third.

During batting practice, Ethier looked like himself, spraying line drives around the field. He hit at least one ball to the warning track.

Given all that, it’s hard to draw a firm conclusion about his availability for tonight. He’s listed on the lineup card as available off the bench.

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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Daily Distractions: Is Brandon League’s ‘whipping boy’ status deserved?

Brandon League

Brandon League has not allowed a run in five of seven appearances this season, including his last three straight. (Associated Press photo)

When Brandon League‘s name was announced over the Dodger Stadium public-address system in the sixth inning Monday, the reaction was best described as a mixture of boos and cheers and indifference.

When League’s name was brought up in Don Mattingly‘s postgame press conference, the reaction was different: “We feel like he’s been pretty good.”

It’s time to call BS on someone here.

A quick look at League’s 2014 resume:

That’s not terribly difficult to defend as “pretty good.” By comparison, this poor chap faced nine more batters and got two more outs, and doesn’t get booed by his fans:

The second gamelog belongs to Jamey Wright, in case you were wondering. We’re dealing with small sample sizes, but here goes: Wright has the superior ERA (3.38 compared to League’s 3.60). League has the better FIP (2.84 compared to 4.35), but FIP doesn’t show up on the Dodger Stadium display boards. Maybe that explains the boos?

Here’s Mattingly, continued: “I know he got the loss in that game in San Francisco. He’s been throwing the ball pretty good. It’s been negative since last year because he has a little bit of a rough spring. It’s been negative but he’s thrown the ball well. We want to stay realistic. He’s thrown the ball good. He’s given us some good innings. He’s kept games where they should be, given us chances, so he’s doing his job.”

What Mattingly didn’t mention is that League’s $22.5 million, three-year contract makes League the Dodgers’ best-paid relief pitcher. That’s closer money for a sixth-inning reliever. League is certainly paid better than Wright’s $1.8 million deal, which is why Wright (or a young pitcher with contract options like Chris Withrow, Jose Dominguez or Paco Rodriguez) will hardly ever get booed. Their contracts are more readily expendable. League’s contract, a seagull bordering on an albatross, is not. For fans, that comes with certain expectations.

Ever since League lost the closer’s job and finished the 2013 season with a 5.30 ERA, it seems like there’s been no turning back. He is the whipping boy. Juan Uribe was in a similar position in 2011 and 2012, but was able to turn it around.

Maybe League can turn his reputation around too. Apparently it’ll take more than seven “pretty good” appearances.

Speaking of which, Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area had a pretty good take on the Giants’ “whipping boys.” Does race have something to do with it?

Some bullet points for an Earth Day:
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Dodgers recall Jose Dominguez, option Chone Figgins to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Jose Dominguez

Jose Dominguez made just three appearances for Triple-A Albuquerque since his last appearance with the Dodgers on April 5. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers bolstered their depleted bullpen Monday by recalling right-hander Jose Dominguez from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioning utility player Chone Figgins to Albuquerque.

Coming into Monday night’s game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Dodger relievers ranked second in MLB in innings pitched. Dominguez is healthy and well-rested. He’s made just five appearances in the last 17 days — three since his last game in a Dodgers uniform April 5. Four days later, the Dodgers optioned Dominguez to Albuquerque when Josh Beckett was activated from the disabled list.

Dominguez has allowed four earned runs in three appearances for the Dodgers this season.
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