Dodgers spring training preview: Outfielders.

Matt Kemp

There’s immense potential among this group, but questionable depth beyond the three starters – and an immediate need for depth. Remember when Shane Victorino and Torii Hunter were being mentioned as potential fourth outfielders? It’s because the need existed: Carl Crawford had Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and arthroscopic surgery on his left wrist in 2012, Matt Kemp had surgery to repair his left shoulder last October, and Andre Ethier can’t hit left-handed pitching. More on that in a bit.

In lieu of any big-name acquisitions, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Skip Schumaker — utility infielders who make occasional cameos in the outfield – might begin the season as the fourth and fifth outfielders. Crawford might well begin the season on the disabled list. With so many question marks, there will be plenty of focus on this group in the spring, beginning with the heart and soul of the Dodger lineup.

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Daily Distractions: More Jackie Robinson, Scott Rolen, and a full album.

Jackie Robinsonbaseball cardColleague Brian Charles dug up the background story on Jackie Robinson’s “Google doodle” yesterday, and it’s an interesting one.

Turns out that Robinson, who was born 94 years ago yesterday, inspires the tech sector, too.

“By celebrating Jackie today, we’re hoping to spread his message of respecting each other as a human beings,” Mike Dutton, the artist who created the image, told Charles in an email Thursday. “Nobody else has changed the game quite as significantly — and with the same kind of poise and dignity in the face of adversity, no less — as Jackie Robinson.”

One more nugget from that story: John Singleton, the filmmaker and Pasadena City College graduate behind the forthcoming Robinson biopic “42″, has been approached by PCC about having an advanced screening of the movie in Pasadena.

Some casual links for a casual Friday:

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Why the Dodgers radically altered their lineup.

The Dodgers’ lineup got a last-minute makeover Wednesday, giving it an unfamiliar look for today’s game against the Padres:

Herrera LF
Punto 2B
Kemp CF
Gonzalez 1B
Ramirez SS
Cruz 3B
Rivera RF
Treanor C
Harang P

Two of the changes were brought on by injury. Shane Victorino was originally leading off, but his injured left wrist is preventing him from batting right-handed — the side he needs to bat from against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard. Second baseman Mark Ellis is ill and undergoing IV treatment today, manager Don Mattingly said.

The other changes weren’t. A.J. Ellis isn’t catching a day game after a night game, as usual. Andre Ethier is 4 for 28 with a double and four RBIs in his career against Richard, and .215/.270/.321 against all lefties this season, so he’s out in favor of Rivera (who’s 0 for 8 lifetime against Richard.
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The latest on Kemp, Uribe, Herrera and Oeltjen.

An MRI on Matt Kemp‘s left hamstring revealed a strain, and the Dodgers center fielder is day-to-day. Tony Gwynn Jr. is starting in center field and Kemp was listed as available if the Dodgers need him to pinch hit. Kemp has played 399 consecutive games, the longest streak in the major leagues.

Kemp did not take part in pregame activities Monday — the team stretched and took batting practice without him — which only reduces the likelihood of his appearing in tonight’s game.

However, the Dodgers might need him.

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Dodgers 4, White Sox 3.

Jerry Sands‘ walk-off single drove in pinch-runner Elian Herrera in the bottom of the ninth inning, lifting the Dodgers (11-8-4) to the win before 5,816 at Camelback Ranch. [box score]

Sands’ single was just his sixth hit in 38 Cactus League at-bats, and it came at a critical time as the roster is trimmed in advance of opening day.

“I’ve been feeling pretty brutal just trying to work on some things,” Sands said. “Changes here and there, just trying to get comfortable now after making some changes, all kinds of stuff. Just trying to get rhythm and timing after making changes is the hardest thing.

With two strikes against him, Sands lined a single into left field that Kosuke Fukudome could not field cleanly, allowing Herrera to score easily from second base. It was only the sixth hit by the Dodgers all afternoon, as starter Chad Billingsley allowed 11 hits in his 5 2/3 innings of work.

All of those hits were singles, however, and Chicago left nine runners on base. Billingsley also walked two and struck out five.

Dee Gordon stole two bases, giving him a major league-leading 10 this spring. Andre Ethier‘s fifth-inning double was his eighth, tying him for the major league lead with a pair of luminaries, Lorenzo Cain and Matt Carpenter.

A few more notes:

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