Daily Distractions: Watch Joc Pederson make a baseball disappear.

Joc Pederson made a baseball disappear Tuesday, with an assist from a Triple-A cameraman.

Pederson hit his third home run of the young season (above) in the Albuquerque Isotopes’ win over the Reno Aces. We know only that the ball cleared the center-field fence in Reno, which is 410 feet from home plate. It’s an understatement to say that Pederson has taken quickly to the Pacific Coast League; he’s 8 for 17 (.471) with three homers, two doubles and two stolen bases in the first five games of the season.

No one needed a reminder of Pederson’s skill. He spent all of spring training with the Dodgers, traveling to Australia for the exhibition game against the Australian National Team. He hit three Cactus League home runs but also struck out 13 times in 38 at-bats. If anything, the PCL is serving as a confidence booster for the 21-year-old prodigy.

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Daily Distractions: A.J. Ellis to miss 4 to 6 weeks following arthroscopic surgery.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis underwent a 20-minute arthroscopic procedure, performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, to debride (clean up) the medial meniscus of his left knee. According to the team, he will start his rehabilitation tomorrow and recovery is expected in 4-6 weeks.

Catcher Tim Federowicz, who wasn’t in the Albuquerque Isotopes starting lineup Monday or today, is expected to be recalled from the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in time for tonight’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

On Oct. 5, 2012, ElAttrache performed a 30-minute clean up procedure on Ellis’ medial and lateral meniscus.

Ellis is already recovering and receiving top medical care:

Some bullet points for a Draw a Bird Day:
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Daily Distractions: Julio Urias gets his Mexican food, and Dodgers fans in Rancho Cucamonga get their prospects.

Julio Urias

Julio Urias struck out Will Venable and Yonder Alonso and got Chris Denorfia to ground out in his only spring training inning. (Associated Press photo)

This is a rough map of all the Mexican restaurants in Rancho Cucamonga.

Julio Urias is waiting.

On March 15, after he pitched a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres — something Brian Wilson couldn’t do last night — Urias still didn’t know where he would begin the regular season. At least the Dodgers’ prized pitching prospect had no trouble identifying the hardest part of being uprooted to the United States at 16.

“It wasn’t really hard except for the food,” he said in Spanish. “The food was probably the hardest part for me.”

Fortunately for Urias, now 17, there are many options in the neighborhood of the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate in the California League.

As we reported yesterday, Urias will be assigned to Rancho along with 2013 first-round draft picks Chris Anderson and Tom Windle, along with Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2012.

In case you’re counting at home, that’s four of the club’s top 10 prospects (per MLB.com) playing in one spot, about an hour east of Los Angeles.

Urias, Anderson and Windle all finished last season with Class-A Great Lakes, and each saw action in one Cactus League game. The Dodgers drafted Anderson and Windle in the first and second rounds of the 2013 draft, respectively, out of college. Urias was signed as a free agent out of Culiacan, Mexico.

Pitcher Zach Lee and outfielder Joc Pederson will begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque. So will Matt Magill and possibly Onelki Garcia once he’s healthy.

Some bullet points for a Cesar Chavez Day:
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Daily Distractions: What’s next for the Dodgers in Sydney, Australia?


The Dodgers are somewhere over the Pacific Ocean as I type this blog entry. (I’m in Los Angeles. My skin isn’t Arizona-level dry anymore. It feels nice.) See for yourself: FlightAware.com is tracking the Dodgers’ airplane.

They will have a workout within a few hours of their arrival in Sydney, Australia and roughly another 60 hours before they play their first game against the Australian National Team. All this is by design — specifically, a design to get the players adapted to a time zone 18 hours away. The Dodgers even consulted with NASA, which is a great story for another day.

In the meantime, the club will attend a welcome gala and take a tour of Sydney Harbor. And, ideally, sleep a lot. If any of this makes for good copy it will probably be unplanned. I’m arriving Friday, the morning after the exhibition game. If the Dodgers want to play it boring until then I won’t complain.

Here is the Diamondbacks’ traveling roster. They are bringing 31 players because one, Ryan Rowland-Smith, is an Australian native who will also play for the Australian National Team in its exhibition game Thursday against the Dodgers.

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Chicago White Sox 5, Dodgers 4: Clayton Kershaw stumbles to the finish line.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw gave up five runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings in his final Cactus League start. (Getty Images)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A rough sixth inning ended Clayton Kershaw’s preseason and lifted the White Sox to a 5-4 victory over the Dodgers in the second game of a doubleheader at Camelback Ranch.

Avisail Garcia unloaded on a Kershaw slider, launching it just right of the center-field wall for a three-run home run. The longball followed singles by Jose Abreu and Marcus Semien and ended Kershaw’s night around the 80-pitch mark.

“It wasn’t great,” Kershaw said of his final Cactus League tuneup. “There was some improvement in the middle innings. Obviously that home run didn’t help but, you know, that’s part of it.”

The left-hander finishes baseball’s preseason with a 9.20 earned-run average in 14 ⅔ innings.

The Dodgers conclude the Cactus League season tomorrow at 1 p.m. against the Colorado Rockies.
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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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Daily Distractions: Predicting the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.

Javy Guerra

Javy Guerra is on the bubble for the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster. (Associated Press)

Opening Day seems a long ways away. The calendar says the regular season doesn’t begin for the Dodgers for another 10 days, and the roster shows more than 40 players in the Dodgers’ major-league camp.

Yet because they leave for Sydney, Australia on Sunday, management must decide on a 25-man roster by the end of the week. The next four days will pass quickly.

So here’s our first stab at what the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster will look like. MLB imposed some unique restrictions on the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks for who can and can’t be on the Sydney roster, and we’ll get to those. As manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday, “we’re just trying to figure out the combination of guys that we need really, to put our roster together for the season, figure out those two games (in Sydney) and starting in San Diego at the same time.”

This roster tries to address both:

Catchers (3)
A.J. Ellis
Tim Federowicz
Drew Butera

Comment: Butera is out of options, so he cannot be one of the three players designated as “inactive” who can then be activated for the Dodgers’ first regular-season game in North America on March 30. Adding him to the Opening Day roster gives the Dodgers more time to decide whether to keep or cut Butera. Ellis and Federowicz were locks from the beginning of camp.

Infielders (7)
Adrian Gonzalez
Dee Gordon
Alex Guerrero
Hanley Ramirez
Juan Uribe
Justin Turner
Chone Figgins

Comment: Turner or Figgins might not be on the March 30 roster, but since the Dodgers can’t list them as “inactive” (since they’re non-roster invitees), they make the Opening Day roster.

Outfielders (5)
Carl Crawford
Andre Ethier
Yasiel Puig
Mike Baxter
Scott Van Slyke

Comment: No real surprises here. Van Slyke has value as a backup first baseman and a fourth outfielder. There might not be room for Baxter on the roster come March 30 (like Turner and Butera), but he makes the trip to Sydney.

Starting pitchers (2)
Clayton Kershaw
Hyun-Jin Ryu

Comment: The Dodgers only need two starters for the two games if Kershaw and Ryu are healthy. By bringing just the two of them, there’s extra room in the bullpen for some pitchers on the bubble.

Relief Pitchers (8)
Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
J.P. Howell
Paco Rodriguez
Chris Perez
Brandon League
Jamey Wright
Seth Rosin

Comment: Picking Rosin over Javy Guerra, who’s out of options, might be the toughest call of them all. But Rosin has been preparing as a starter, and the guess here is that he can eat some innings in the Dodgers’ exhibition game against the Australia National Team if needed. Guerra has simply been crowded out of a job, largely because of the final two years of League’s contract. The Dodgers can take advantage of the option in Chris Withrow’s contract to get a longer look at Rosin, who was obtained at the Rule 5 draft and would have to be placed on waivers if he isn’t on the Opening Day roster.

Extra (3)
Paul Maholm
Josh Beckett
Dan Haren

Comment: These three players don’t necessarily go to Sydney, but the Dodgers will need one to start the exhibition game on March 20.

15-day disabled list (2)
Matt Kemp
Zack Greinke

Comment: Both will be eligible for the Dodgers’ home opener against the San Francisco Giants, because their DL stint can be backdated to March 19.

60-day disabled list (1)
Scott Elbert

Again: This is just a guess and very much open for debate. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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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 5, Chicago White Sox 0.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu threw two scoreless innings in his first Cactus League start Friday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A 0-0 pitchers’ duel through six innings turned in the Dodgers’ favor on a two-run home run in the seventh inning by Joc Pederson. Pederson ripped into a 2-2 pitch from Jake Petricka, showing some impressive opposite-field power in lifting the ball high over the left-field fence.

The Dodgers tacked on three more runs in the eighth inning. Dee Gordon walked and stole second base, then scored on an RBI double by Mike Baxter. Clint Robinson followed with a two-run home run that provided the final score.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, making his first Cactus League start of 2014, did not allow a run in two innings. Brian Wilson, Kenley Jansen, Chris Perez, J.P. Howell, Jamey Wright and Matt Magill finished the game with seven shutout innings. The White Sox were limited to three hits and three walks.

The box score is here. Some more notes:
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