Minor matters: Dodgers designate Alex Castellanos for assignment, claim ex-Mets OF Mike Baxter.

The Dodgers claimed former New York Mets outfielder Mike Baxter Thursday and designated Alex Castellanos to clear room on the 40-man roster.

Baxter, 28, played 194 major-league games, all with the Mets, over parts of the last four seasons. He’s got a career .229/.335/.348 slash line in the majors. A left-handed batter and right-handed thrower, Baxter played 59 games at Triple-A last season, batting .289/.380/.519.

Baxter is perhaps most famous in New York for making a sliding catch to preserve Johan Santana‘s no-hitter last June.

Castellanos wasn’t included on the Dodgers’ playoff roster and wasn’t traveling with the team. Originally acquired from St. Louis in the Rafael Furcal trade, Castellanos batted .257/.347/.468 at Triple-A Albuquerque this year. He saw action in 24 games with the Dodgers the last two years, hitting two home runs and batting .171/.186/.390 overall.

Dodgers inviting 17 NRIs to spring training.

Here is the updated list of non-roster invitees to spring training, which is up to 17 as of now:

RHP Juan Abreu
LHP Kelvin De La Cruz
RHP Greg Infante
RHP Peter Moylan
RHP Matt Palmer

C Eliezer Alfonzo
C Wilkin Castillo
C Ramon Castro
C Jesus Flores

INF Alfredo Amezaga
INF Brian Barden
INF Nick Evans
INF Omar Luna
INF Ozzie Martinez
INF Dallas McPherson

OF Tony Gwynn Jr.
OF Jerome (Jeremy) Moore

Dodgers minor-leaguer Austin Gallagher released, suspended.

Not long after being released by the organization, former Dodgers third-round draft pick Austin Gallagher was suspended 50 games Friday for violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.Austin Gallagher

Gallagher, 24, tested positive for Methylhexaneamine, a substance used as an ingredient in nasal decongestants and banned by MLB and the World Anti-Doping Agency as a stimulant. His suspension will be effective immediately upon his signing with another organization.

In 2012, his fourth season in the High-A California League, Gallagher batted .283 with 15 home runs and 74 RBIs for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. Gallagher was chosen in the third round of a 2007 Dodgers draft class that included first-rounder Chris Withrow, 22nd-rounder Matt Wallach and 27th-rounder Rob Rasmussen (out of high school).

After breaking into the Cal League at age 19, Gallagher showed he could hit for average (.290 over four seasons) but not power (.447 SLG%) in a league known for its hitter-friendly fences. He hasn’t reached the Double-A level in six professional seasons.

Gallagher was released prior to being suspended, and his release was unrelated to the positive test.

Daily Distractions: Minor-league invitees, HGH testing, Marcus Thames, coffee.

Yesterday, a Dodgers spokesperson emailed to pass along three new names of players signed to minor-league contracts with invitations to major-league camp: Right-handed pitcher Matt Palmer, catcher Elizier Alfonzo and infielder Brian Barden.

The Dodgers have also invited RHP Juan Abreu, LHP Kelvin De La Cruz, RHP Greg Infante, C Wilkin Castillo, C Ramon Castro, INF Alfredo Amezaga, INF Brian Barden, INF Omar Luna, INF Ozzie Martinez, INF Dallas McPherson, INF/OF Nick Evans and OF Jeremy Moore.

Teams can invite as many non-roster players as they want to spring training but must trim their major-league roster to 25 by opening day, April 1.

Some more distractions …
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Puig sidelined by staph infection.

Dodgers prospect Yasiel Puig developed a staph non-MRSA infection in the back of his right elbow, a team spokesperson said Tuesday.

A full recovery is expected to take 3 to 5 weeks, during which time Puig will remain at the team’s facility at Camelback until he regains full range and strength. That timeframe all but rules out Puig for the remainder of the Arizona Fall League schedule — the short-season league populated by prospects ends Nov. 15.

According to the spokesperson, the infection involved the bursa of the elbow but did not invade the elbow joint. He was initially treated with oral antibiotics that were unsuccessful. This necessitated a “wash out procedure” on Sept. 18 by Dr. Brian Shafer in Phoenix. Puig’s elbow was immobilized to assure the incision healed and remained closed. His elbow will remain immobilized until Oct. 15.

Non-MRSA is considered a less serious strain of the Staphylococcus bacteria than the antibiotic-resistant MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus).

Puig defected from Cuba and signed a 7-year, $42 million contract with the Dodgers in June. He batted .400 (12 for 30) in nine games with the AZL Dodgers and .327 (17 for 52) in 14 games with the Single-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.

Joc Pederson reflects on WBC qualifier with Team Israel.

Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson was playing meaningful games last week, perhaps more meaningful than any the big-league club will play anytime soon.

They were the first — and so far, last — World Baseball Classic games for Team Israel. Pederson, who was at Dodger Stadium on Friday to receive his Branch Rickey Award as the organizational hitter of the year, couldn’t say enough about the three games in Jupiter, Florida.

“It was a great experience, something I’ll never forget,” he said. “We were only together for I think it was maybe 10 days, and I’ve never seen a group of guys have so much team chemistry. It was an unforgettable experience.”
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John Ely, Joc Pederson win Branch Rickey Awards.

The Dodgers chose right-handed pitcher John Ely and outfielder Joc Pederson as the Branch Rickey Minor League Pitcher and Player of the Year, respectively.

They join a list of past winners that includes Pedro Martinez, Eric Karros, Mike Piazza, Paul Konerko, Chin-lung Hu, Joe Thurston and Billy Ashley.

“It was a good season,” said Ely, who learned he won the award two days ago. “The accolades and all, they’re great. I’m just honestly happy to have put together the year that I did. The awards aside…this is where I want to be. That’s what I’m happy about, that (my season at Triple-A) was able to get me here.”

Both Ely and Pederson will be honored in an on-field pregame ceremony prior to tomorrow’s 7:10 p.m. Dodger game against the Colorado Rockies.

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Ogden’s season ends in first round.

The Ogden Raptors, the Dodgers’ affiliate in the advanced-rookie level Pioneer League, saw their season come to an end Friday in a 10-0 loss to the Missoula Osprey. The Osprey win the best-of-three series, 2 games to 1.

Jesus Valdez and Delvis Morales went 2-for-4 for the Raptors, but starter Ross Stripling –the Dodgers’ fifth-round 2012 draft pick — was tagged for eight hits and seven runs (six earned) in 3 2/3 innings.

The Raptors were the last of the Dodger farm teams still alive in the postseason.

On the Farm: Onelki Garcia; Tyler Ogle; two seasons end.

Four of the Dodgers’ top five minor-league affiliates saw their regular seasons end Monday.

First, a couple noteworthy individual performances:

Onelki Garcia made his professional debut for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and struck out four of the six batters he faced in two perfect innings. The left-hander was the Dodgers’ third-round draft pick in June, but had not pitched since because of a delay in obtaining his work visa. Garcia defected from Cuba in 2010.

Tyler Ogle went 3-for-3 with a walk and four RBIs in his debut game at Triple-A Albuquerque. The catcher, a ninth-round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Oklahoma, made stops in the Arizona League (.483 in 16 games), Midwest League (.210 in 18 games for Great Lakes), Pioneer League (.258 in 8 games for Ogden) before coming to Albuquerque when Tim Federowicz was called up by the Dodgers.

Leon Landry, a former Dodgers outfield prospect now playing for the Single-A High Desert Mavericks, clinched the California League batting title (.341). Landry was sent to the Seattle Mariners along with prospect Logan Bawcom in the trade that brought Brandon League to the Dodgers.
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Matt Kemp is back in the lineup and batting fourth.

Matt Kemp was penciled into the cleanup spot in the Dodgers’ lineup for the first time this season, and it appears his collision into the center-field wall in Colorado will only keep him out of the lineup for two games.

“It’s as good as it’s going to get,” he said of his knee, which was still swollen Thursday and rendered him unavailable for the Dodgers’ 2-0 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Kemp downplayed the severity of the pain in his left shoulder, but manager Don Mattingly said that the center fielder might still miss the game if the shoulder tightens up after batting practice.

In his career, Kemp is a better hitter out of the three hole, but he has more experience batting fourth (203 games) than third (185). He’s batting .289/.354/.521 as a cleanup hitter and .337/.392/.568 third.

“I batted fourth all last year,” Kemp said. “I know how to do it.”

Mattingly said that he wanted to separate left-handed hitters Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier. Gonzalez is hitting third, Kemp fourth, Hanley Ramirez fifth and Ethier sixth. “Matt didn’t care either way, Adrian didn’t care either way,” Mattingly said.