Dodgers’ Zack Greinke throws two innings, ‘still a ways to go’ before he’s ready for a real game.

Zack GreinkeZack Greinke‘s right calf is not at full strength and his arm is in its typical early-spring shape. That is, poor.

His honesty is in midseason form, and the 30-year-old pitcher reserved the most brutal of his honesty Wednesday for simulated games. He doesn’t like them.

“Those are awful,” Greinke said. “It’s not the same. You make a mistake, they miss those. You make a mistake in the game, they hit those harder.”
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Matt Kemp makes progress in Dodgers’ minor-league game, major-league games still a ways off.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp played one inning in center field in a minor-league intrasquad game Wednesday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For as much progress as he made Wednesday, Matt Kemp‘s measured thoughts after his latest minor-league rehab game proved just how long a journey he faces before he’s able to play for the Dodgers.

Kemp took a big step forward by playing one inning in center field against a group of Dodgers minor leaguers, something he hasn’t done in any kind of competitive environment since Sept. 27, 2013. Three weeks after that, he had a major microfracture surgery performed on the talus bone in his left ankle.
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Dodgers 7, Royals 5: Minor leaguers clobber the Kansas City bullpen, Van Slyke homers, Haren pleased with results.

Scott Van Slyke

Scott Van Slyke hit a home run that cleared the 400-foot marker in center field at Surprise Stadium on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

SURPRISE, Ariz. — There’s a good reason not to take spring training statistics seriously, a reason that was on full display Tuesday at Surprise Stadium.

Louis Coleman made 27 appearances out of the Kansas City Royals’ bullpen last year. He allowed just two runs, posting a puny 0.61 earned-run average for the season. The right-hander has 117 career appearances and has only once allowed more than three runs to score in a single inning.

But in the ninth inning against the Dodgers, Coleman was pulverized by several players who have never made a major-league at-bat. Alex Guerrero hit a triple off the top of the center-field fence, roughly 400 feet from home plate. Joc Pederson walked and Noel Cuevas (surprise!) followed with a three-run home run. Aaron Bates (who has 11 career major-league at-bats) and Trayvon Robinson singled. The inning ended on a diving catch of a Mike Baxter line drive to right field.

That’s how the Dodgers (5-6-4) rallied from their second deficit of the game to beat the Kansas City Royals 7-5.

Scott Van Slyke hit a two-run home run to deep center field in the eighth inning, his second Cactus League home run. In another spring anomaly, Dodgers right-hander Javy Guerra was the winning pitcher in his worst outing of the year. He allowed two runs (one earned) in the eighth inning, as well as two hits and a walk.

Dodgers starter Dan Haren allowed seven hits, all singles. Haren issued a walk, he said, on an experimental cut fastball that missed the corner to Lorenzo Cain. It was one of 11 walks in the game.

“He’s down and still under control,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of Haren. “Looks like he’s controlling the strike zone for the most part. The guy was fairly tight behind the plate, we thought, but both ways. He was consistent, but a lot of those balls were good throws that were down in the zone, just not getting them.”

Haren was pleased with the results, too.

“Last year, beginning of the year, I was haunted by the home run, just leaving too many balls up out over the plate,” he said. “Second half, I was keeping the ball down and getting results more like today — a lot of ground balls.

“It’s more of just a mindset, more of an execution thing. Making sure when I miss, I miss down in the zone like I did today. Trying to work to get ground balls and in big spots not trying to do too much. If I have to walk a guy, I walk a guy. … The split is more of a waste pitch, but last year at the end of the year, I threw any pitch in any count.”

Haren said he felt well enough to throw another inning, but is a bit more tired than usual for this point in spring. The Dodgers still haven’t decided whether or not Haren will be on the flight bound for Sydney on Sunday.

If Haren isn’t on the plane, he hopes that “maybe (I can) take an extra day or two where I can back off a little bit because I’ve pushed it hard to this point.”

The box score is here. Some more notes and observations:

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Dodgers tie Oakland, trim camp roster by five.

Matt Magill

Pitcher Matt Magill was optioned to the minors on Monday, one of five players cut from the Dodgers’ major-league camp roster. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers trimmed their camp roster by five after tying the Oakland A’s on Monday.

There were no surprises on the list: Pitcher Matt Magill was optioned to the minor-league side, and non-roster invitees J.C. Boscan, Carlos Frias, Brendan Harris and Clint Robinson were reassigned to the minor-league side.

Magill, the only player of the group on the 40-man roster, pitched 5 ⅔ innings, allowing three hits, one run, walking two and striking out six. The only run came on a solo home run March 5 by Cincinnati Reds prospect Neftali Soto. Magill, a 24-year-old right-hander from Simi Valley, was not a candidate to make the major-league rotation.

Of the four non-roster invitees, Harris had the most realistic chance of earning a major-league roster spot, if only because of the Dodgers’ needs on the bench and at second base. He needed a good camp to prove that he was not the same player who registered -2.3 WAR (baseball-reference.com version) since 2009. Harris didn’t have a good camp. He batted 3 for 19 (.158) with three walks.

Boscan, a 34-year-old catcher with 30 major-league plate appearances to his credit, went 1 for 4 with a pair of walks.

Frias made four Cactus League appearances and allowed five runs, including three Monday without recording an out in the Dodgers’ 8-8 tie. The 24-year-old right-hander advanced as high as Double-A last year and could earn a promotion to Triple-A at some point this season.

The 29-year-old Robinson showed why the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal in the off-season, batting .348 (11 for 23) with a solo home run. Robinson batted .292 at Triple-A Omaha last year and is expected to start at first base this year for Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers have 41 players on their camp roster, not including pitcher Scott Elbert (on the 60-day disabled list) and infielder Erisbel Arruebarruena, who is still awaiting his U.S. work visa. The roster must be down to 28 — 25 players who are eligible to play the two games in Sydney, Australia, plus another three designated as inactive — by 7 p.m. March 21.

Clayton Kershaw, Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager active for Dodgers’ tilt with San Francisco Giants.

Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw will try to lower his 18.00 earned-run average today before a sold-out crowd at Camelback Ranch.

Manager Don Mattingly announced Sunday morning that Kershaw will take the ball March 22 in Sydney, Australia. The 25-year-old left hander will only have one Cactus League start after today before the regular season begins.

Yasiel Puig bats third today after leaving the team to attend to a personal matter Saturday.

Infield prospect Corey Seager is in uniform for the game, wearing number 91. So are minor leaguers Ozzie Martinez (#87), OF Jeremy Hazelbaker (#89), OF Scott Schebler (#90 and OF Noel Cuevas (#92). Minor league right-handers Steve Edlefsen (#84) and Justin Souza (#88) will back up Kershaw, Javy Guerra and Red Patterson.

Here are the lineups for today’s game:

Giants:
Angel Pagan CF
Juan Perez LF
Brandon Belt 1B
Buster Posey C
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Joaquin Arias SS
Brandon Hicks 2B
Tyler Graham RF
Edwin Escobar LHP

Dodgers:
Chone Figgins CF
A.J. Ellis C
Yasiel Puig RF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Justin Turner 3B
Mike Baxter LF
Alex Guerrero 2B
Miguel Rojas SS
Clayton Kershaw LHP

Updates on Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp, and lineups for the Dodgers’ two real games today.


GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Dodgers chairman Mark Walter, president Stan Kasten, chief marketing officer Lon Rosen, manager Don Mattingly, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, and other coaches and team officials in attendance, a simulated game took place on a back field at Camelback Ranch this morning.

Unlike the two other games featuring uniformed Dodgers players today, this one didn’t count for anything. It did, however, feature Zack Greinke pitching to Matt Kemp. Kemp is in the late stages of his ankle rehabilitation — stage 6 of 7, specifically — and Greinke was facing live hitters for the first time since straining his right calf Feb. 27.

Greinke said he threw 35 pitches in the simulated game, about half to Kemp and the other half to Scott Schebler. He threw another 50 in the bullpen.

“I’m feeling healthy,” Greinke said. “I wanted to see some hitters, try to throw several different pitches. They all kind of came out pretty good. Not midseason form or anything but pretty good.”

Despite repeated prodding, Greinke wouldn’t say when or where his next outing will come. Based on his own assessment, another simulated game or a minor-league game might be in order, since Greinke’s health and repertoire are still works in progress.

Greinke got Kemp to swing and miss at a big curveball, “but he was hitting the fastball good.” The final pitch of both of Kemp’s at-bats Greinke are above.

In a couple days, Greinke thinks his calf will be healed; for now fielding ground balls off the mound remains an issue.

“I can field,” he said. “If Dee Gordon hit a ground ball to first, I wouldn’t be able to beat him to first. Right now I wouldn’t be able to get there in time. But if A.J. Ellis did I still might not, but I’d probably be able to get there in time.”

As for Kemp, he ran the bases under the watch of Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte. Later, he practiced tracking fly balls in center field at less than full speed.

Paul Maholm is starting the Dodgers’ noon (PST) game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium, and Josh Beckett is starting the 6 p.m. home game against the Seattle Mariners. The latter will be televised on MLB Network for all you non-Time Warner subscribers.

Mattingly clarified one thing about Yasiel Puig‘s excused absence today: The Dodgers have known that Puig would be gone today, and returning Sunday, since the beginning of camp. Whatever his “personal issue” is — Mattingly wouldn’t say — it is not a last-minute emergency. It’s believed that Puig is not in the Phoenix area.

The Dodgers’ next two games at Camelback Ranch — tonight and tomorrow — are sold out.

Here are the lineups for both teams, both games:

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Baseball’s new instant replay system in play for Dodgers, Angels in Tempe.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Dodgers and the Angels will have instant replay at their disposal for their first head-to-head Cactus League game of 2014. Managers Don Mattingly and Mike Scioscia are able to challenge one umpire’s call during the first six innings. In innings 7, 8 and 9 the umpires can initiate a challenge.

The camera angles at Tempe Diablo Stadium aren’t what they will be during the Freeway Series, when replay will be in use for the first time. But Prime Ticket is televising the game, so at least the teams won’t be at the mercy of an in-house video feed.

It’s the first replay game for the Dodgers and the fourth for the Angels. Scioscia has already thrown one challenge and lost; I asked him this morning if he’ll challenge for the sake of challenging — practice for the manager, practice for the umpire, practice for Nick Francona.

“You have to practice the logistics that’s for sure, but I don’t want to make a mockery of it,” he said. “If there’s a play that makes sense — I know the umpires are looking forward to the challenge, just so they can get their end of it worked out too.”

Here are the lineups for both teams:
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Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling has surgery, but it isn’t Tommy John.

Pitcher Ross Stripling underwent surgery this morning in Los Angeles performed Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.

According to a team spokesperson, the surgery was an arthroscopic procedure to remove loose bodies from an inflamed and swollen elbow. The plan is to allow the inflammation to resolve and restore range of motion before proceeding with the Tommy John reconstruction.

Here’s what Stripling had to say about his elbow after reporting the injury to the team last Friday.

Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds reveal lineups for rare night game.

The Dodgers will play their first Cactus League night game — one of three on the schedule — at 6 p.m. Pacific Time against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Stadium. Hyun-Jin Ryu will make his second spring start against right-hander Homer Bailey.

As manager Don Mattingly indicated yesterday, Dee Gordon is in center field for the first time all spring. Carl Crawford is the designated hitter one day after playing left field for the first time since he strained his right quadriceps muscle on Feb. 26. Alex Guerrero is back at second base, and Matt Magill, Paco Rodriguez, Javy Guerra and Jose Dominguez are scheduled to pitch in relief.

Here are the starting lineups for both teams:
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Daily Distractions: What happened to Stephen Fife?

Stephen Fife

Stephen Fife is 3-6 with a 3.49 earned-run average in 17 major-league games (15 starts), all with the Dodgers. (Getty Images)

Through no fault of his own, Stephen Fife was not the talk of spring training a year ago. People were talking about the Dodgers’ high-priced roster of superstars and how they would jell, the eight starting pitchers with guaranteed major-league contracts when camp broke, and the intrigue surrounding rookies Yasiel Puig and Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Fife had no chance of starting the season in the major leagues due to the aforementioned surplus of starters. So he began the season Albuquerque, only to be summoned to Los Angeles three weeks later when injuries struck Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Zack Greinke. His return was hastened because Fife had a marvelous camp, his fastball suddenly sitting in the mid-90s after sporadically breaking 90 the year before.

Manager Don Mattingly said at the time that “this guy has come so far last spring to this spring — huge strides.”

On Tuesday, Fife’s name was among the first group of players optioned to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp. So what happened?

Fife said Tuesday that he was taking a different, less intense approach to spring training this year. The approach was born from wisdom, but also might have led to his premature demotion.

“I have no idea what (my) velocity is so far,” he said. “I’m throwing at a ‘competitive level’ but not a midseason level. Watching (Josh) Beckett, (Clayton) Kershaw, (Zack) Greinke, those guys — some days they take it easy.”

After struggling with bursitis in his right shoulder for much of 2013, Fife began his off-season spending four days a week with Dodgers physical therapist Steve Smith trying to correct the mechanical issues that led to his bursitis in the first place. He said the scapula bone in his right shoulder had actually migrated up his back.

It wasn’t until the second week of January that Fife said he was throwing pain-free.

“I didn’t have much of an off-season,” he said.

Maybe Fife could have touched 95 on the radar gun in camp. After a short off-season, he seemed content to save his best stuff for April and beyond.

There were other factors working against Fife. The Dodgers wanted to see more from Zach Lee, Seth Rosin and Jarret Martin, three younger pitchers getting their first look in the Dodgers’ major-league camp. Each is still an unproven talent against major-league hitters. Lee and Martin might be deserving of a call-up later this season (Rosin is a Rule 5 pick who must make the Opening Day roster or else go on waivers), but they also need more time against major-league hitters in camp to earn that opportunity.

Fife is a known quantity. He went 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA in 12 games (10 starts) last season. The 27-year-old has one option year left on his contract. Fife could always pull a Justin Sellers and sneak back onto the roster before the end of camp, or pull a Stephen Fife and find his way back by the end of April.

That would require a spate of injuries to the team’s top starters, but we’ve seen that before. Keep an eye on Fife; he might be back.

Some bullet points for a Multiple Personality Day:
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