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

Daily Distractions: As bullpen market settles, Brian Wilson reportedly ‘close’ to settling with Dodgers.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson posted a 0.66 earned-run average in 13 games as a Dodger. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff photographer)

In the midst of all that pesky logic that preached pessimism, there was always this shred of hope for the Dodgers: Brian Wilson never insisted on closing in 2014.

Not publicly, at least.

Here’s what I wrote on Oct. 31:

It’s reasonable to expect the Dodgers will enter the bidding for Wilson. Just don’t be surprised if a team desperate for a closer (Detroit? Cleveland? Arizona?) guarantees more money and more years to a pitcher who’s saved one game the past two seasons.

Well, Detroit appears to have entered and exited the picture. The Tigers are reportedly close to signing Joe Nathan to be their closer, in part because their Plan A didn’t work out:

And, according to multiple reports Tuesday morning, Wilson is close to rejoining the Dodgers.

After the Dodgers declined to tender an offer to Ronald Belisario before last night’s 9 p.m. deadline, the need for a set-up man to Kenley Jansen became clear. And if Brian Wilson was keen on staying close to his Southern California home, why not Brian Wilson? He had a 0.66 earned-run average in 18 games after joining the Dodgers midway through the 2013 season, with his velocity increasing as the season progressed. He also threw six shutout innings in the playoffs.

Those stats would be nearly impossible to maintain in 2014, but he doesn’t appear to be regressing after undergoing Tommy John surgery in April 2012.

The closer market is settling quickly this off-season. If Wilson and Nathan leave the board, only Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney would remain among free agents who closed full-time in 2013. Heath Bell and Jim Johnson have been traded in the last 24 hours.

I mentioned John Axford as a possible replacement for Belisario. Re-signing Wilson wouldn’t necessarily rule that out, and with this sense of humor you hope it doesn’t:

 

Some bullet points for an International Day of Persons with Disabilities:
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San Francisco Giants re-sign Tim Lincecum to two-year contract.

The Dodgers were believed to be so interested in impending free-agent pitcher Tim Lincecum, a reporter asked general manager Ned Colletti on Monday whether he was interested in signing Lincecum.

Impending is the operative word, and Colletti declined comment on the grounds that Lincecum was still employed by the San Francisco Giants.

Colletti and 28 other general managers crossed Lincecum off their winter wish list Tuesday, when the San Francisco Giants re-signed the right-hander to a two-year contract worth $35 million. The contract is still pending a physical, and includes a full no-trade clause.

Lincecum, 29, is 9-6 with a 2.92 earned-run average in 23 career appearances (22 starts) against the Dodgers.

The $17.5 million average annual value on Lincecum’s contract might come as good news to Dodgers pitchers Clayton Kershaw and Ricky Nolasco, who are seeking pay raises. No word on that front Tuesday.

San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (flu) scratched for series finale against Dodgers.

Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval, who homered Wednesday in the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers, will miss the series finale with the flu. (Associated Press photo)

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval was a late lineup casualty Thursday because of flu symptoms, and he will miss the series finale against the Dodgers tonight at AT&T Park.

Sandoval is 6 for 13 in his career against Dodgers starting pitcher Edinson Volquez with a career .462/.462/.692 slash line. He’s batting .276 this season and clubbed his 14th home run in the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers last night. Nick Noonan, whose diving stop of a Hanley Ramirez ground ball ended Wednesday’s game, will replace Sandoval at third base.

For the second straight time, Tim Federowicz is catching Volquez. Volquez was sharp with Federowicz behind the plate last Friday in San Diego, allowing one earned run in 6 ⅓ innings. Another strong outing by Volquez will give the Dodgers a tough decision about who should take the ball in a potential playoff Game 4 after Ricky Nolasco struggled again Wednesday.

Other than Federowicz, the Dodgers’ lineup has a very playoff-ready look. The Giants have already clinched a win in the season series against the Dodgers, with 10 wins in the first 18 head-to-head games. However, the Dodgers are 36-36 this season against other National League West teams, with their final four games all coming against divisional opponents — the Giants tonight and the Colorado Rockies this weekend.

That’s a minor footnote, since the Dodgers won’t face any West teams in the playoffs. Cosmetically at least, a losing record within the division would look bad. As my father would say, it’s something to work on.

Here’s how both teams will line up:
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San Francisco Giants 6, Dodgers 4

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 earned runs in his last 12 innings, spanning three starts. (Associated Press photo)

If you looked beyond the final score, beyond Ricky Nolasco‘s struggles, you might have noticed the difference between the playoff team and the non-playoff team Wednesday night at AT&T Park.

San Francisco starter Barry Zito was removed from the game, likely his last as a Giant, after pitching five solid innings with the Dodgers trailing 5-2. Zito did not allow a hit until the fourth inning and he did not react well to being removed in the fifth.

A KCAL camera followed the left-hander as he stomped from one end of the dugout to another. Zito appeared to swipe at a water cooler and hastily discard a paper cup, nothing too crazy and nothing that was too difficult to comprehend. After signing a 7-year contract worth $126 million back in 2007, Zito mostly underperformed (ERA-plus of 86) while his teammates won the World Series twice. Wednesday night might have been his last chance to do something right in a Giants uniform; after 77 pitches, he was done.

Nolasco was Zito’s opposite. He labored through a 24-pitch second inning in which the Giants scored three runs, all on a bases-loaded triple by former Dodger Tony Abreu that might have been a grand slam elsewhere.

A two-run home run by Pablo Sandoval in the fourth inning, and an RBI double by Abreu in the sixth, stuck Nolasco with six runs (all earned) in 5 ⅔ innings. He was allowed to throw 95 pitches and pitch into the sixth inning, and it didn’t raise an eyebrow.

For Zito, there was nothing to be gained by his excellence beyond the moment, while giving Nolasco a chance to pitch out of his struggles meant something to the Dodgers, even if they ultimately lost.
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Daily Distractions: Onelki Garcia makes history, doesn’t throw his glove.

Onelki Garcia

MLB.com’s Gameday view of Adam Eaton’s at-bat against Onelki Garcia.

Dodgers pitcher Onelki Garcia walked Adam Eaton in his major-league debut last night and didn’t waste time: He threw four pitches out of the strike zone before Don Mattingly summoned Peter Moylan from the bullpen.

A couple things happened next:

… and those of us in the press box started reaching for the history books:

If Garcia never appears in another major-league game, he’ll be the only pitcher to walk the only batter he faced, let alone on four pitches. At least Garcia avoided the fate of Larry Yount, Robin’s brother and a Woodland Hills native, who was injured while warming up for his only major-league game in 1971 and never faced a batter again.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he intended for Garcia to face only Eaton, then insert Moylan to face right-handed hitter A.J. Pollock. He didn’t bother to mention this to Garcia. “Maybe I should’ve told him,” Mattingly said after the game.

But it sounds like Garcia will get another chance. Both J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez were unavailable last night, and that might be the case again between now and the season finale on Sept. 28.

“That’s what we envision — him getting a lefty,” Mattingly said. “I think he’ll be fine.”

Garcia copped to some nerves after the game, “like a lot of players do the first time,” he said through an interpreter.

“It can’t be an easy situation, stepping in for the first time,” catcher A.J. Ellis said.

There will be a next time, or there will be a new one for the record books.

Some bullet points on the 10th anniversary of Johnny Cash’s death:
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Angels’ Tommy Hanson talks about his first start after returning from bereavement.

Angels pitcher Tommy Hanson can’t relate exactly to what Clayton Kershaw is going through right now, but their situations are similar.

Kershaw will attempt to start tomorrow against the San Francisco Giants, five days after leaving the Dodgers to mourn the death of his father. He’s been on the bereavement list in the meantime.

Hanson was activated from the bereavement list Monday, seven days after leaving the team following the death of his stepbrother in Georgia. Similar to Kershaw, Hanson started a road game in the Bay Area against a division rival, the Oakland A’s. He pitched well, too, allowing five hits, two runs, one walk and striking out six batters in six innings.

Although he didn’t factor into the decision, Hanson turned in one of his best starts of the year. It wasn’t easy.
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers’ Josh Beckett makes his spring debut, Hamburger puns, etc.

Tim Lincecum and Josh Beckett will pitch their first Cactus League games today when the Dodgers play the Giants at Camelback Ranch. Dodger pitchers Brandon League, Kenley Jansen and J.P. Howell will also make their debuts in relief of Beckett.

The Giants are 1-1-1, having tied the Chicago White Sox 9-9 last night.

Update: Luis Cruz was a late lineup scratch with a stomach flu.

Some links for a Tuesday morning:

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Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp responds to Giants first baseman Brandon Belt’s ‘chemistry’ quip.

Matt Kemp said Friday that he thinks “we all saw the quotes” from San Francisco Giants Brandon Belt about the Dodgers’ chemistry experiment this year. In case you didn’t, here they are:

“All I can say is, you can’t buy chemistry.”

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea reports that attendees at the Giants’ Fan Fest earlier this month responded to Belt’s statement with “a thunderous ovation.”

Nothing like a few fightin’ words to stoke a good rivalry, right?

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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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