Daily Distractions: Having some fun at the Pittsburgh Pirates’ expense.

Full disclosure: I picked the Pittsburgh Pirates to finish third, ahead of St. Louis and Chicago, in the National League Central this year. Can’t take it back. It happened.

One week later, I found myself using the quality of the Dodgers’ weekend opponent as some sort of asterisk in a game story after the Bucs were swept out of Dodger Stadium. That’s what happens when you can recite stats like these:

Six games into the season, NL pitchers are hitting .138/.180/.198. The Pirates are hitting .119/.188/.159.

— YCPB (@cantpredictball) April 8, 2013

Adding to the Pirates’ woes: One local paper can’t even spell the name of their star player correctly (h/t @whygavs):

AndrewxMcCutchenHappy Monday, Mr. McCutcheon. Onto the bullet points:

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A day of firsts for the Dodgers’ starting lineup.

Nick Punto gets his first start, Luis Cruz and Andre Ethier get their first day off, and Tim Federowicz gets his first start behind the plate when the Dodgers host the Pittsburgh Pirates to conclude their first homestand of the season.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had different reasons for each of the changes. Cruz, who is still searching for his first hit of the season after 19 plate appearances, “needs to put those behind him because he can’t change anything that happened in the first five games of the season,” Mattingly said.

“Hopefully he can see the forest because he was getting a little close to the trees, can’t see his way out.”

Juan Uribe will start at third base and bat sixth.

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Justin Sellers is out, Juan Uribe in for series finale against Giants.

Juan Uribe

Juan Uribe is making his first start for the Dodgers since Aug.14, 2012. (Associated Press)

One day after his two-error performance against the San Francisco Giants, Justin Sellers will sit and Luis Cruz will play shortstop in Wednesday’s series finale against Tim Lincecum.

Juan Uribe will play third base, making his first start since August 14 of last year. Cruz had played third base in the first two games of the season.

Sellers, a last-minute addition to the 25-man roster in spring training, had only made two errors in 29 career games at shortstop before Tuesday. In the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 3-0 loss, he made a pair of throwing miscues that led to two unearned runs. It didn’t technically make the difference in the game — the Giants already led 1-0 — but benching Sellers one day after the blunders could be more than coincidence.

Of course, it could also be in response to the Dodgers’ almost total lack of offensive production in their first two games of the season against the Giants. They’re 9 for 59 (.153) in the two games.

While Uribe hasn’t been an offensive threat since he came to Los Angeles two years ago, he batted .333/.358/.451 in spring training — possibly saving his spot on the 40-man roster.

Today, Uribe gets his first shot to show that his spring was no fluke.

Uribe will bat seventh and Cruz sixth against Lincecum.

Luis Cruz on his role in WBC brawl: “I lost it.”

Luis Cruz said Monday that he “lost it.” Over and over and over again.

But what, exactly, did he lose when he induced a brawl in the WBC game between Canada and Mexico on Saturday? Did he lose the formula for “Team Quality Balance”? Here it is again:

(RS/IPO)-(RA/IPD)=TQB

To fit that formula on the back of his hand, Cruz and the rest of the participants in the World Baseball Classic would have to write fairly small. It’s an important formula, the one that determines which of three teams tied with identical records, and no head-to-head tie-breaking games, advances out of pool play into the second round of the tournament.

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Daily Distractions: WBC upsets, Dodgers draw scouts, SABR.

Adrian GonzalezDon Mattingly has openly joked about getting Nick Punto back in camp next week. He didn’t think Team Italy had a long future in the World Baseball Classic. He wasn’t alone.

On a day off for Hanley Ramirez and Ronald Belisario, the other three Dodgers in the WBC — Luis Cruz, Adrian Gonzalez and Punto — were busy pulling off upsets. Italy beat Canada, 14-4, and Mexico stunned the United States 5-2.

Punto went 2 for 4 with a double and scored twice. Gonzalez homered and drove in three runs and Cruz put Mexico up 5-1 with a sacrifice fly off Glen Perkins in the fifth inning. As Ice Cube once said, “it was a good day.”

Unless you’re the U.S., that is. The Americans play the Italians today and momentum is not in their direction. Italy beat Mexico on Thursday and can eliminate the U.S. from advancing to the semifinals with a win.

Some more links for a Saturday:

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Dodgers’ Javy Guerra on WBC opportunity: ‘It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.’

When Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Dodgers last August, no one could have known what that would mean for reliever Javy Guerra.
Javy Guerra
Gonzalez asked Guerra if he would join Team Mexico on Saturday after reliever David Hernandez was ruled ineligible and switched teams, from Mexico to the United States. Guerra readily accepted after getting permission from Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

It’s something he might not have been able to do without Gonzalez, the team captain for Mexico.

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Looking ahead to the World Baseball Classic: Luis Cruz

Luis Cruz

Luis Cruz is one of five Dodgers competing in the WBC. Keith Birmingham/Staff Photographer

Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz will leave camp tomorrow to train with Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic. So will first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Hanley Ramirez is leading off for the Dodgers today against the Seattle Mariners and tomorrow he’ll be wearing the uniform of the Dominican Republic. Today, Ronald Belisario is a middle reliever; tomorrow he becomes a closer for Venezuela. Nick Punto will be wearing the colors of Team Italy.

The Dodgers’ five World Baseball Classic participants might be gone for eight days. They might not be back for another 18. It’s a weird time to stage a major international baseball tournament with major-league players, but that’s another topic for another day: It’s here and Cruz has been gearing up for the moment for a while.

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Luis Cruz returns to Dodgers after illness, doesn’t think it’s contagious.

Luis CruzA year ago, a stomach bug ripped through the Dodgers clubhouse in spring training, sidelining players and reporters alike for a couple days at a time.

Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz had a nasty one earlier this week, with the worst of his symptoms coming Tuesday morning. He’s back in the lineup this afternoon against the Angels.

Cruz doesn’t believe this will be a repeat of last year’s team-wide ailment, however. He said Thursday that he’s “pretty sure” he got sick by eating at a local organic seafood restaurant with his family Monday night. Cruz ordered the soup.