Daily Distractions: How a quirky, schedule-induced disabled list rule could affect the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.

Dan Haren

New Dodgers pitcher Dan Haren might need to be wary of his SCL as Opening Day approaches. (Associated Press)

How can a player go on the 15-day disabled list and miss only five regular-season games?

If he plays for the Dodgers or Arizona Diamondbacks, of course.

Thanks to a quirky schedule that has the Dodgers and Diamondbacks starting their season in Sydney, Australia on March 22 — a week before any other club — both teams will be allowed to place players on the disabled list retroactive to March 19. For every other team, the earliest a retroactive DL stint can begin is March 21.

What does that mean?

For Matt Kemp, who has pledged not to rush back from an off-season ankle surgery that’s still healing, it means he can start the season on the disabled list and be eligible to play in the Dodgers’ home opener April 4. The Dodgers play five regular-season games before April 4: The two games in Sydney, and a three-game series in San Diego.

That’s good news for fans. The best news for the Dodgers might concern their starting rotation.

In theory, only three starting pitchers are needed for the Dodgers’ first five games of the season. The two pitchers who start in Sydney (say, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke) would have more than one week’s rest before the first two games of the San Diego series, March 30 and April 1. The third starter could pitch April 2 against the Padres. Then the rotation can reset on regular rest — if manager Don Mattingly chooses — with Kershaw and Greinke starting the first two games of the opening homestand April 4 and 5.

If every pitcher stays on regular rest, the Dodgers won’t need a fourth starter until April 6 at the earliest. By then, the 15-day DL window will have expired. Let’s say the fourth starter is Dan Haren. Maybe Haren comes down with a nasty hangnail, a twinge in his pitching triceps, a strained SCL (something collateral ligament). He can start the season on the 15-day disabled list and the Dodgers can give that roster spot to an extra bench player or an extra reliever — maybe a swingman like Paul Maholm who could start in case of an unexpected injury (brawl?) involving one of the top three starters. Haren can come off the 15-day and start on schedule April 6.

It’s something to keep in mind when the Dodgers decide who’s playing in Sydney. More than a typical year, the disabled list could go a long way toward determining the Opening Day roster.

Some bullet points for an Inventors’ Day:
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Daily Distractions: How relationships made a difference for Skip Schumaker, Dan Haren.

Brian Wilson

Skip Schumaker, left, and Nick Punto have fun after tearing the jersey off Brian Wilson after the Dodgers beat the Giants in September. (Michael Owen Baker/Staff photographer)

Skip Schumaker had never been a free agent before this year, and he wasn’t a free agent for long. Less than a month after the World Series ended, Schumaker signed a two-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds.

“I didn’t really want to wait because I felt so good about Cincinnati,” he said on a conference call Tuesday.

The idea of waiting in traffic on the way to Dodger Stadium didn’t appeal to Schumaker, either. His carpool buddy, Nick Punto, had just signed with the Oakland A’s on Nov. 13. That mattered.

“I didn’t know who was coming back,” Schumaker said. “I didn’t know what coaches were coming back, which players. My friends were signing elsewhere – especially Nick Punto – becoming free agents.”

Dan Haren had been a free agent before. This time, the pitcher had help from Zack Greinke, his teammate with the Angels late in the 2012 season.

“I kind of talked to (Greinke) throughout the whole process,” said Haren, who finalized a one-year deal with the Dodgers on Monday. “He said the team is amazing. … It’s nice coming into a situation where there’s a familiar guy.”

This principle is nothing new, but it was interesting to see it work both for and against the Dodgers in the span of two days.

Schumaker’s contract with the Cincinnati Reds was widely reported last week and became official Tuesday. Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reported that Schumaker will make $2 million in 2014, $2.5 million in 2015 and there is a $2.5 million club option for 2016 with a $500,000 buyout.

Apparently the Dodgers weren’t that interested in bringing him back.

“They had so many things going on initially,” Schumaker said, “I felt I was maybe on the back burner.”

Some bullet points for a Thanksgiving/Hanukkah weekend. These will be the last until Monday:
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With Ramirez returning, too little too late for Cruz to remain with Dodgers?

Luis Cruz and Don Mattingly were using the same term, but referencing entirely different things.

In every sense of the word, the Dodgers infielder’s timing was right on Tuesday.

With his days on the parent club’s roster seemingly numbered as Hanley Ramirez works his way back from a hamstring injury, Cruz produced his first extra-base hit of the season when he needed it most. The timing of the 29-year-old’s two-run home run in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Angels couldn’t have been better, according to Mattingly.

The Dodgers manager was grateful it gave his team a lead it wouldn’t relinquish. Cruz was happy the timing of his plant foot and his swing were properly coordinated, something that has been plaguing him during a season-long slump during which his batting average has ranged from .087 to .115.

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