A smattering of notes: Zach Lee starts, Dee Gordon leads off, and Carl Crawford has the flu.

Sydney Cricket Ground

The Sydney Cricket Ground, as configured for four days of baseball games.

Apropos of nothing — the time in Sydney, the time in Los Angeles, my newspaper’s deadlines — I’m checking in with one last update before boarding a flight to Australia.

The Dodgers play the Australian National Team tonight in Sydney. It’s their last exhibition game before beginning the regular season on Saturday (1 a.m. Pacific Time/7 p.m. Sydney Time). Manager Don Mattingly named Zach Lee will start the game.

Here’s how the Dodgers will line up:
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Dodgers 5, San Diego Padres 4: Julio Urias debuts, and the Dodgers hold on for a win.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The story of the game was Julio Urias, the 17-year-old prodigy who needed 14 pitches to mow down the San Diego Padres’ first three batters. Mike Brito, the scout who signed Urias, had a cigar hanging from his mouth as he walked the Dodgers’ clubhouse after the game.

Don Mattingly said Urias will be in the rotation by May “at the latest”: “For me, with young guys, you know it’s going to be a little while. You have to build him up. He hasn’t thrown that many professional innings. To me, you can like him all you want but you really need to grow up, and part of that is the expectation for a 17-year-old. You’re always going to get a lot better. Well, he has to get a lot better, right?

“I had a kid a couple years ago in the (Arizona) Fall League who was a can’t-miss, can’t do anything (wrong) and he’s still not in the big leagues,” Mattingly continued. “I think it’s just easier to let him grow up. He looked really good. For 17, 18, 19 or 20 he looked really good, but I still think we have to let him grow up.”

So we shall. The game that followed Urias’ debut was a good one for a number of Dodgers. Dee Gordon tripled, scored a run, and laid down a bunt for a base hit. He also stole his ninth base (in nine tries). Miguel Rojas went 2 for 3, raising his average to .440. Hanley Ramirez singled, stole second base and scored on an RBI single by Adrian Gonzalez.

The major-league portion of the Dodgers’ bullpen had no trouble. Javy Guerra, J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen and Chris Perez combined to throw three scoreless innings.

San Diego rallied for four runs in the eighth inning off minor-league right-hander Romulo Sanchez. Sanchez got out of his own bases-loaded jam by striking out former Dodgers farmhand Alex Castellanos to end the inning.

Mattingly said after the game that Guerra, and possibly Jansen and Howell, would pitch in tomorrow’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

The box score is here.

There’s another game here starting in 80 minutes.

Some notes and observations:

Mike Baxter had a busy day in the field. He played right field, center field and first base in the game. He hasn’t played first base to this point in spring training but he told me that he played the position in college (Vanderbilt) and has been taking ground balls with the other infielders throughout camp.

• Gordon’s bunt hit was not a drag bunt, just a 10-footer between home plate and the mound that made the Padres scramble. He beat the throw by a step.

• The Dodgers drew seven walks in the game. Andre Ethier had two.

Carl Crawford went 0 for 3, lowering his Cactus League batting average to .138. More from the bad batting average department: Joc Pederson (0 for 1), .192; Hanley Ramirez (1 for 4), .229; Tim Federowicz (0 for 3), .077.

• I wonder which can’t-miss prospect Mattingly was referring to. Could it have been this guy?

Chicago Cubs 5, Dodgers 4: Another Dodgers pitcher has another nagging injury.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett threw three shutout innings against the Chicago Cubs before leaving with a right thumb contusion. (Associated Press photo)


MESA, Ariz. — Josh Beckett was hoping for more out of his third Cactus League start than three innings and 44 pitches.

Because of a right thumb contusion that worsened as the game went on, Beckett was pulled Friday against the Chicago Cubs before reaching his four-inning, 65-pitch target. The veteran right-hander was already staying away from throwing curveballs, the pitch that gave him the most discomfort, before head athletic trainer Stan Conte and manager Don Mattingly decided to pull him altogether.

Beckett doesn’t think the injury is serious but said he’ll visit a doctor next week if needed.

“It’s frustrating but it could have happened at a worse time,” he said. “I think right now we’re dealing with it the best we can. If I need a couple days off, we’ll do that. I just don’t want to fall too far behind.”

The injury isn’t related to the right thumb ligament that bothered Beckett in Boston early in the 2012 season with Boston. That injury affected the inside of his right thumb; this one affects the outside, he said.

Eleven days ago, Beckett’s right thumb “got slammed on the outside of a door,” he said. “Somebody was opening the door and — you know how they have signs that say ‘in’ and ‘out’? Somebody came out the in.”

In spite of the injury, Beckett’s fastball and changeup were effective against the Cubs. He allowed one hit, an infield single by Emilio Bonifacio, walked two and struck out one in three scoreless innings.

Beckett and right-hander Zack Greinke have both been ruled out from making the trip next week to Sydney, Australia, leaving the Dodgers with four healthy starters — Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Dan Haren and Paul Maholm — one week before the beginning of the regular season.

Fortunately, the schedule will allow the Dodgers to can get with on four starters until mid-April. Beckett shouldn’t need that long.

“It’s not getting worse but it’s not getting better,” he said. “I’m just going to evaluate, maybe see a doctor again next week.”

After Beckett and Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks were pulled with the score tied 0-0, both offenses came awake against the bullpens. Jamey Wright (four runs allowed in the sixth inning) and Javy Guerra (walk, single, RBI groundout in the fourth) allowed all the Cubs’ runs.

The Dodgers (5-9-4) clawed back to make the game close. Miguel Rojas doubled and scored on an RBI triple by Dee Gordon in the fifth inning. Alex Guerrero hit a two-run double off Jose Veras in the seventh inning. Drew Butera hit a solo home run to center field off Alberto Cabrera in the ninth inning to provide the final score.

The box score is here.

Some more notes and observations:
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Chone Figgins, Justin Turner in Dodgers’ lineup against the Cincinnati Reds.

Tim Wallach will manage the Dodgers for a second straight day with Don Mattingly away, and two non-roster invitees are in the lineup against the Cincinnati Reds: Justin Turner and Chone Figgins.

In the next three days, the Dodgers will have to make a decision on their travel roster for Sydney, Australia. By extension, the 25-man roster will have to be mostly settled. It’s telling that Turner (at first base for the first time in a Cactus League game this spring) and Figgins (in center field) are in the lineup, and Alex Guerrero is not, with Dee Gordon starting at second base.

If the Dodgers wanted him to get at-bats in order to prepare for a fast-approaching season, Guerrero would probably be in the lineup. Instead, the not-so-early indication is that Figgins and Turner have the inside track on utility roles, Gordon is the Opening Day second baseman, and Guerrero might not be ready for major-league duty in the eyes of the organization (a view held by several evaluators I’ve spoken to before and since Guerrero arrived in camp).

There haven’t been any formal indications about any of this from within the organization, but we won’t have to wait long to find out.

Outfielder Matt Kemp was scheduled to play in a minor league intrasquad game for the second straight day at 12:30 p.m. on the back fields of Camelback Ranch. Kemp had six at-bats and played in the field for the first time yesterday in a minor league intrasquad game and ran the bases.

Minor league players suiting up today include: RHP Red Patterson (#78), LHP Fu-Te Ni (#83), RHP Juan Gonzalez (#94), C Kyle Farmer (#92), INF Darnell Sweeney (#84), INF Ozzie Martinez (#87), INF Daniel Mayora (#88), INF Jamie Romak (#90), OF Jon Garcia (#89), OF Trayvon Robinson (#91) and OF Aaron Bates (#95).

Here are both lineups for the 1 p.m. game:
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Nick Punto, Billy Burns in the house for first A’s-Dodgers Cactus League meeting of 2014.

Nick Punto

Nick Punto’s contract with the A’s nearly doubled his $1.5 million salary from 2013. (Getty Images)


The first Cactus League meeting between the Dodgers and Oakland A’s contains a few interesting subplots (none of which have anything do with the 1988 World Series, but if you’re feeling nostalgic it’s there for you).

Nick Punto is starting at shortstop for the A’s. The 36-year-old utilityman batted .255/.328/.327 last year in 335 plate appearances (116 games) for the Dodgers.

Punto turned that into a one-year deal with an option for a second year that guarantees $3 million. He is the A’s ninth-highest paid player. The Dodgers’ ninth-highest paid players this year are Dan Haren and Brian Wilson ($10 million each).

Dee Gordon gets the start at second base and leads off for the Dodgers. Billy Burns is leading off for the A’s. Gordon and Burns rank 1-2 among all spring training players in stolen bases. Gordon is 8-for-8 and Burns, who finished last season with the Washington Nationals’ Double-A affiliate, is 7-for-9.

Gordon is batting .208/.296/.375 in 12 spring games.

Zack Greinke threw a bullpen session this morning with Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis two days after a two-inning simulated game.

Here are both lineups for the game at Camelback Ranch:
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Dodgers 2, Texas Rangers 1: Zach Lee and Tom Windle offer a glimpse of the future.

Zach Lee

Zach Lee didn’t allow a run against the Texas Rangers in his Cactus League debut Friday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Zach Lee came into camp hoping to make the Dodgers’ 25-man roster. Seriously.

The 22-year-old pitcher only reached Double-A last year, three years after the Dodgers selected him with the 28th overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft. Only a strained right latissimus dorsi muscle suffered early in camp forced Lee to temper his expectations.

By waiting until Friday to make his Cactus League debut, Lee knows he’s ticketed to the minors to start the season.

“Anytime you set a goal you want to set it high,” he said. “If you set it too low, you’ll probably meet it and get content with it.”

Lee pitched two scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday at Camelback Ranch. He allowed only two hits, walked none and had something to be proud of at the end of his long-awaited debut.

The right-hander from McKinney, Texas survived a loud leadoff double to Shin-Soo Choo — “a 2-1 fastball right down the middle that you don’t want to throw,” he said — to survive a 21-pitch first inning on consecutive ground-ball outs by Elvin Andrus, Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre.

After a smooth second inning in which he allowed a single to Jurickson Profar, Lee’s day was over. He faced eight hitters, almost all major leaguers, and did not look out of place on the mound.

“He just looks like he belongs around the clubhouse, around the fields. He does everything well,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s got a clean delivery. We feel like he’s going to be able to throw the ball where he wants. Just like in his composure — pretty much everything about him.”

Lee has a preternatural calm in the presence of almost anyone — reporter, major leaguer, minor leaguer. He said he’s tried to stay in the background like most rookies, while also trying to pick the veterans’ brains.

“I’ve talked a lot with (Josh) Beckett and (Zack) Greinke,” he said. “Probably Greinke a little more than Beckett from a baseball standpoint just because me and his game are kind of similar as far as our repertoire goes, how we pitch. It’s always good to get an outside perspective, especially with a guy who’s had the success he’s had and kind of the similar stuff we have and how we approach the game.”

Both pitchers share an analytical approach to baseball, something that impressed Dodgers management about Lee since his first days in the organization. Lee’s numbers in his second season at Double-A Chattanooga were better in almost every category in 2013, when he was named the organization’s pitcher of the year.

Lee took part in the Dodgers’ prospect camp at Dodger Stadium in January. Finally on Friday, he had a chance to show everyone what he’s gained since last season.

“Growing up, the way I looked at pitching, I was more of a cerebral, analytical person,” he said. “I really thought more kind of gameplanning and what (Greg) Maddux did back in the day, where he was able to pinpoint location rather than overpowering people. I kind of took after them and that’s where my game’s developed.”

Young power pitchers are often the first to reach the majors. The St. Louis Cardinals’ Shelby Miller, a 2012 draft pick who beat the Dodgers twice in last year’s National League Championship Series, is a protypical example.

Pitchers like Lee, who mix and match an assortment of pitches and rely more on location and guile, often take longer. This season marks his fourth in the organization and only his first major-league camp.

Lee said he threw all his pitches Friday and “some worked better than others.” For Mattingly, the first impression was a good one.

“I think that’s what you like about him: You see him around the clubhouse, the way he handles himself, gets after his work, does everything pretty well, takes fielding his position seriously, holding runners — all the things you don’t get a lot of attention for — but we like everything about him.”

Some more notes and observations:
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Dodgers 4, Angels 4: A Scott Van Slyke grand slam, instant replay, perfect relay all go for naught.

Scott Van Slyke

Scott Van Slyke hit a grand slam in the Dodgers’ 4-1 victory over the Angels. (Associated Press photo)

TEMPE, Ariz. — Scott Van Slyke’s grand slam in the sixth inning and an exciting play at home plate in the first highlighted the Dodgers’ 4-4 tie with the Angels before 6,457 at Tempe Diablo Stadium. The 10-inning game is the second tie this week for the Dodgers (3-4-2).

The umpiring crew used instant replay to determine that Mike Trout was indeed thrown out at home plate attempting to complete an inside-the-park home run. Angels manager Mike Scioscia had a lengthy discussion with the umpires on the field before initiating the challenge. A 72-second review confirmed the call.

With one out in the first, Trout hit a long, sinking line drive just left of center field. Yasiel Puig dove at the last second but missed. The ball rolled past Puig and all the way to the warning track, where Puig got to the ball ahead of left fielder Scott Van Slyke. His relay throw to shortstop Hanley Ramirez on the short outfield grass was perfect, and Ramirez made an accurate throw to Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis just in time to retire the speedy Trout.

The only question seemed to be whether Ellis got his glove on Trout or not, but that wasn’t the only question circulating through the Dodgers’ dugout.
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Daily Distractions: How Alex Guerrero changed the narrative at second base.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero is hitting .294 (5 for 17) in his first spring training with the Dodgers. (Associated Press photo)


GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The narrative in camp surrounding second base so far goes something like this: Alex Guerrero is a project. He didn’t play last season in Cuba, he’s still learning second base, and Triple-A might be the best place for him to get up to speed once the regular season starts. That leaves Dee Gordon as the best option on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster to be the starting second baseman Opening Day. But he hasn’t played much second base either, so Chone Figgins, Justin Turner, Brendan Harris and Miguel Rojas are all getting a long look at the position. (Buster Olney of ESPN.com picked up the Gordon vs. Figgins narrative here, while Ron Cervenka at ThinkBlueLA.com makes the case for Gordon here.)

Meanwhile, Ned Colletti ought to be working the phones, because no respectable team with a payroll in the neighborhood of $240 million ought to be entertaining notions of a platoon involving Gordon/Figgins/Turner/Harris/Rojas at second base. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com recently explored the trade possibilities. (A couple of those scenarios actually make quite a bit of sense.)

With one swing of the bat Wednesday, Guerrero changed the narrative.

His grand slam in the Dodgers’ 10-3 Cactus League victory over the Cincinnati Reds was the first extra-base hit for Guerrero in his seventh Cactus League game. That it came off a left-hander, veteran Jeff Francis, is significant. Gordon has a career .221/.267/.232 slash line against left-handed pitching, compared to .271/.316/.348 against right-handers. (Andre Ethier, by comparison: .235/.294/.351 against lefties.) The Dodgers will take that right-handed slash line from Gordon, maybe with a few walks thrown in for good measure.

The more significant development is that Guerrero, in the words of Don Mattingly, looked “more comfortable.”

“I thought in general, he just looks more fluid and smoothing out a little bit,” the manager said. “For me, early on it was really rough and stiff. It’s gotten better. With Alex, we’re just going to try to keep playing him as much as we can. We’re going to try to keep getting him at-bats.”

Is that progression typical for a player in his first spring training?

“I think it’s typical for a guy who hasn’t played in a while,” Mattingly said. “BP’s a whole lot different from games. As you get in playing every day, I think things just come back to you — more natural. As you get a little tired, you’ve been doing your work and you want things to just come out naturally. That’s what I’m looking for, to see what it’s going to look like when he gets tired taking his ground balls every day.”

If the grand slam was no fluke, and Guerrero has really settled in to the comfort level that earned him a four-year, $28 million contract, it carries an important implication. Namely, that he can be ready for the majors by Opening Day.

That doesn’t bode well for Figgins, Turner, Harris or Rojas. The sample sizes are still small and skewed, but for what it’s worth Rojas — statistically a poor Triple-A hitter in his career — has the best spring batting average of all of them at .417. None of their numbers will matter if Guerrero remains comfortable in the field and at the plate.

Some bullet points for a Day of the Dude:
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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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