Daily Distractions: Let #Puigapalooza begin.

Yasiel Puig has arrived, literally:

I wrote last night about what it really means for Puig and for the Dodgers; in short, it means that the plan changed. The Dodgers didn’t plan on having Puig in the majors this soon. Maybe Puig isn’t here if Carl Crawford, the Dodgers’ only outfielder who presents a stolen base threat, is healthy. Power-hitting Alex Castellanos is in Triple-A and he’s the only logical alternative — in fact, he’s the only other natural outfielder on the 40-man roster available for recall.

Puig was hitting well in Double-A Chattanooga, but will he still be as rough around the edges as he was in spring training? Should be fun to find out.

Some bullet points for an Opium Suppression Movement day:
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Jerry Hairston Jr.’s groin injury could open a spot for an outfielder in Los Angeles, but who?

First it was the pitchers. Now the Dodger position players’ health is unraveling like a spool of thread with Mark Ellis‘ quadricep, Hanley Ramirez‘s hamstring and Jerry Hairston Jr.’s groin all giving out within a 10-day span.

Hairston could join Ellis and Ramirez on the disabled list soon if he isn’t able to play the outfield. Among the Dodgers’ reserves, only Skip Schumaker is a natural outfielder (infielders Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers have made cameos there during spring training). Manager Don Mattingly had a clear criterion for Hairston to avoid the disabled list.

“Either he can play the outfield or he can’t go at all,” Mattingly said. “Jerry’s going to need to be able to play the outfield for us to not have to make a move.”
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Injured at the 2009 WBC, Alfredo Amezaga can relate to Dodgers teammate Hanley Ramirez.

Alfredo AmezagaThis spring marks the second go-around for Alfredo Amezaga in the Dodgers organization. You’re forgiven for not remembering the first.

Amezaga signed a minor-league contract with the Dodgers in Feb. 2010, less than a year removed from major knee surgery. He didn’t play in spring training. He didn’t play in the regular season either, save for one game at Double-A Chattanooga. Amezaga spent nearly the entire season on the disabled list and became a free agent in October.

On the day the Dodgers learned that Hanley Ramirez would miss the next eight weeks with a thumb injury, it’s worth noting where Amezaga suffered the injury that caused him to miss all but 31 games in a two-year span: The 2009 World Baseball Classic.

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More from Alfredo Amezaga on Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Adrian Gonzalez

Alfredo Amezaga gave me an amazing interview yesterday about what Adrian Gonzalez means to the Mexican baseball team at the World Baseball Classic. Maybe it’s because he is not playing in the WBC, or he’s a veteran who’s seen a lot, but Amezaga made some great points about Gonzalez. For Mexico, it’s not just about having someone to serve as team captain, help choose the roster, or email and call the other players.

Amezaga’s key points made it into my notebook. Here are a few things I left out:

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Dodgers 10, Angels 8: Postgame thoughts.

Don Mattingly dropped a revealing opinion, perhaps unexpectedly, in his postgame chat today.

It appeared that, an hour earlier, Ted Lilly had done an OK job in two innings out of the bullpen in his first appearance of spring training. Keep in mind that Lilly hadn’t pitched in a competitive game since Aug. 16 of last year. The veteran lefty got Erick Aybar to fly out, got rocked by Howie Kendrick (who finished 3-for-3 with a single, double and home run) for a longball, then retired the next four Angel batters he faced. Day over.

“Teddy, he seems a lot more like Aaron (Harang) to me, from my point of view,” Mattingly said. “Taking longer to get loose, taking longer to warm up, all that kind of stuff.”

In other words, not a good bullpen candidate.

That would seem to make Chris Capuano, by default, the Dodgers’ preferred choice to move from the rotation to the bullpen at this point in time. This is a point in time when eight starters are healthy, so take that with a grain of salt. Things can change in the next four weeks.

At the very least Mattingly’s opinion offers a framework for what the Dodgers might be thinking — stash Capuano in the bullpen as a sixth starter, and if Billingsley ends up needing Tommy John surgery (or another starter goes down in spring), insert either Lilly or Harang into the fifth starter’s slot. Otherwise, try to move one or both pitchers. That would agree with what I’ve heard from knowledgeable people outside the organization; people inside the organization have no reason to tip their hand pre-flop.

Lilly had to feel good about his performance regardless of how the manager reacted to it. It’s been a long time coming.
Some more notes:

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Dodgers spring training preview: Infielders.

Adrian Gonzalez

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is about as close as it gets to a sure thing here – on the field, in the community, in the clubhouse. Second baseman Mark Ellis is aging but consistent. Then the questions begin. Who will back him up? Can Hanley Ramirez’s glove be trusted at shortstop or at third base? What happens to Dee Gordon? What is Juan Uribe doing here?

Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr., who can be expected to log some innings on the infield, were intentionally previewed with the outfielders. Upward and onward:

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers sign Mark Lowe; Hanley Ramirez hurt (briefly); NL West rumblings.

Mark Lowe

Mark Lowe is, in many ways, a typical spring training reclamation project. The 29-year-old’s fastball was once clocked at 101 mph, but now sits in the low 90s. He is a veteran of parts of seven major-league seasons and two surgeries: Elbow microfracture (2006) and back microdisectomy (2010). He’s also a Type 1 diabetic.

Now, Lowe is the newest Dodger courtesy of a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported the deal, which would pay $1.5 million in base salary if Lowe makes the team.

Unlike most reclamation projects, Lowe was pitching effectively at the major-league level last season. He allowed only eight runs in his first 31 appearances for the Rangers but faded in September, allowing earned runs in four of five appearances (18.90 ERA). He was sidelined for six weeks at midseason with a strained intercostal muscle in his ribcage after throwing a career-high three innings in one game.

The right-hander is not a complete longshot to make the team, but he’ll have to prove he belongs in a crowded Dodgers bullpen. More on that later.

Some links to send you into the weekend:

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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