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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Hanley Ramirez runs bases, could return to Dodgers next week.

Hanley RamirezHanley Ramirez ran the bases at Dodger Stadium for the first time since straining his left hamstring on May 3 and is close to going out on a rehabilitation assignment.

“As we get through Anaheim, we’re talking about him playing some games the next few days,” Mattingly said.

Ramirez wrote on his Instagram account last week that he would be “coming soon” to Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

The rehab process has been a frustrating one for Ramirez, who was only able to play four games after recovering enough from a torn ligament in his right thumb before suffering the hamstring injury.

Ramirez said last week that he will announce his assignment in some capacity on Twitter. Assuming he plays Friday, Saturday and Sunday, it’s conceivable that Ramirez could be in a Dodger uniform next week when the team play a 10-game home stand against San Diego, Atlanta and Arizona.

Nick Punto is starting at shortstop Monday against the Angels following the demotion of Dee Gordon to Triple-A Albuquerque. Punto and Luis Cruz figure to get the lion’s share of the innings at shortstop until Ramirez returns.

Dodgers option Dee Gordon to Triple-A Albuquerque, activate Jerry Hairston Jr. from disabled list.

Dee Gordon

The Dodgers activated utility player Jerry Hairston Jr. from the disabled list Monday afternoon as expected. He’ll be in the starting lineup against the Angels, batting seventh and playing left field.

To make room for Hairston on the active roster, the Dodgers optioned shortstop Dee Gordon to Triple-A Albuquerque.

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Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke has a stiff neck, but unlikely to go on disabled list.

The Dodgers will have to make room for Jerry Hairston Jr. on the active roster tomorrow somehow.

Hairston played back to back games for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday and Saturday, and Don Mattingly wanted to give Hairston the day off Sunday, but he’s expected to come off the disabled list in time for Monday’s game against the Angels. Hairston was placed on the DL on May 6 with a strained left groin.

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Daily Distractions: Important roster decisions coming. Who will the Dodgers cut?

Jerry Hairston Jr.Mark EllisThe Dodgers are in the market for a pair of infielders.

Mark Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr., currently on the disabled list with a strained right quadriceps and left groin, respectively, are expected to join the team at some point during this weekend’s road trip to Atlanta. Both are rehabbing tonight with the Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts.

But to take each off the disabled list means that another player must come off the active roster, and the choices are not obvious. After all, who expected Elian Herrera to get the first call-up when Hairston went on the disabled list two weeks ago?

That said, barring any (more) injuries, these are the four players whose time with the Dodgers may be at least temporarily up:

Luis Cruz. A gifted third baseman/shortstop, Cruz hasn’t hit enough this year to justify being on a major-league roster. In 69 at-bats, he has six singles for a .087 batting average and slugging percentage. Cruz is out of options, so the Dodgers would probably have to designate him for assignment. The prospect of closing the book on last year’s feel good story (and a player whose jerseys are still displayed prominently in the window of the Dodgers’ team store) has become a story in and of itself.

Ramon Hernandez. At 38, Hernandez’s bat speed isn’t what it used to be. He’s batting even below the Cruz Line, at .045, and the Dodgers have two catchers ahead of him on the depth chart. The Dodgers have two first basemen ahead of him on the depth chart, too, in Adrian Gonzalez and Scott Van Slyke. Like Cruz, Hernandez would probably be designated for assignment since he’s been out of options since 2002.

– Van Slyke. Sending Van Slyke out doesn’t make as much sense, given the Dodgers’ need for power and a backup first baseman/corner outfielder, but they’ve cut him loose before. In nine plate appearances, SVS has a single, a home run, two strikeouts and a walk.

Dee Gordon. Like Van Slyke, there are reasons to keep Gordon but history isn’t on his side. The Dodgers never wanted Gordon playing an everyday shortstop role in the majors until he was ready, and Gordon’s .220 batting average and negative UZR (which is actually up from last season) aren’t strong signs of readiness. The Dodgers could easily platoon Cruz, Nick Punto, Juan Uribe and Hairston on the left side of the infield until Hanley Ramirez returns from the disabled list.

Some bullet points to tide you through the weekend:

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Daily Distractions: Outdoor hockey invades Dodger Stadium.

Stadium Series

Say hello to the “Stadium Series.”

That’s what the NHL is calling the first outdoor NHL game in Los Angeles, which today was formally announced and scheduled for Jan. 25, 2014 at Dodger Stadium (and reported here last month). What will you call it?

According to the league, it will be the first outdoor regular-season NHL game played in the U.S. west of the Mississippi River, the southern-most outdoor NHL game ever and the first ever in California.

Tickets aren’t available yet but it’s believed that Kings and Ducks season ticket holders will get first dibs, with details to be announced soon.

Onto the bullet points:
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers face an important roster decision.

Mark Ellis, Juan Uribe, Justin Sellers

One of these men might not be on the active roster by game time tomorrow. (Associated Press photo)

Expect the Dodgers to shed an infielder for this weekend’s series against the San Francisco Giants.

Before we assume that Mark Ellis will be placed on the 15-day disabled list to make room for Clayton Kershaw, who must be activated from the bereavement list before he starts Friday, consider Ellis’ career numbers against the San Francisco Giants’ scheduled starters.

He’s never had much success against Friday’s starter, Barry Zito (.217/.280/.304 in 23 at-bats). Yet Ellis has had no problems with Saturday’s starter, Ryan Vogelsong (.313/.313/.375 in 16 ABs) or Sunday’s starter, Matt Cain (.333/.385/.417 in 24 ABs).

So if Ellis’ right quadriceps is healthy tomorrow — he wasn’t far off Wednesday — it’s entirely possible that the Dodgers would use him Saturday and Sunday and keep him on the bench as a late-innings option Friday.

If that’s the case, look for the Dodgers to option Justin Sellers to Triple-A Albuquerque. Sellers is hitting .200/.278/.262. His slugging percentage is the fifth-lowest in the National League, just ahead of Juan Pierre (.253). The Dodgers don’t need a slugger at every position, but they’ve got an extra infielder if Ellis and Hanley Ramirez are both healthy. Sellers’ numbers could leave him the odd man out.

A less likely move, if the Dodgers are so inclined, would be to designate Luis Cruz for assignment. Cruz hasn’t hit all season (.088/.117/.088), allowing Juan Uribe to surpass him on the depth chart at third base. While Sellers still has an option year to burn, Cruz does not, so this would be the most convenient means for removing Cruz from the active roster.

It’s a rash move, sure. By designating Cruz for assignment, the Dodgers would risk losing him altogether when they could just as easily keep Sellers or Ellis in the organization. But it’s an option, and something to keep an eye on in the next 24 hours.

Some bullet points for a Thursday morning:

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Daily Distractions: Charting Matt Kemp’s struggles.

ESPN Stats and Info gives Matt Kemp the Hot Zone treatment on its blog today.

Author Mark Simon highlights several things that have ailed Kemp this season; here’s one more: Kemp is getting behind in the count a lot and not making pitchers pay when he gets ahead. According to ESPN’s chart, Kemp is 10 for 37 (.270) when he’s behind in the count and 4 for 17 (.235) when he’s ahead.

Here is ESPN’s “heat map” for balls in play/strikeouts when Kemp was ahead in the count last season:

Matt  Kemp 2012 heat map

That’s how you make a pitcher pay.

Onto some bullet points:

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