Injury updates: Chris Capuano, Zack Greinke, Mark Ellis.

Chris Capuano continued to throw Monday at Dodger Stadium and is expected to start for the Albuquerque Isotopes on Wednesday. It’s the only rehab start Capuano is expected to make before he is activated from the disabled list. The left-hander strained his left calf covering first base on April 16.

Zack Greinke threw off flat ground from approximately 90-100 feet Monday as he continued his rehab from a fractured left clavicle. The right-hander said he’s still “just a little bit” sore 16 days after undergoing surgery to have a stabilizing metal plate inserted in the area of the clavicle: “I’m a little achy here and there.”

Greinke hasn’t swung a bat yet, saying “it’s not worth the risk,” and even cracked a joke about his swing. “It was already bad.”

Second baseman Mark Ellis is no closer to playing in a game, or being placed on the disabled list, since straining his right quadriceps on Friday. Ellis jogged a little bit Monday, said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who’s willing to play short-handed for now.

“We’ve played short before,” Mattingly said. “You can do it. Sometimes you may get 10 games. We just need to be creative and be careful with players early in the game. You can’t burn guys.”

Reinstating Hanley Ramirez from the 15-day disabled list Monday gave the Dodgers an extra infielder off the bench for Monday night’s game against the Colorado Rockies.

With Ellis, Mattingly said, “it’s more of a medical decision than a baseball decision right now.”

Dodgers’ Mark Ellis is ‘optimistic’ but the disabled list is still a possibility.

Mark EllisMark Ellis was in good spirits after throwing and taking batting practice Sunday morning, two days after the Dodgers second baseman strained his right quadriceps running out a ground ball.

“So far I can swing the bat,” Ellis said. “I can throw fine. I’m still kind of day to day but I’m optimistic.”

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said it’s “still kind of up in the air” whether or not Ellis will go on the disabled list. To avoid the DL, Ellis needs to begin running soon.

The Dodgers have plenty of second basemen at their disposal, but fewer choices for a number-two hitter. Nick Punto‘s there today. A.J. Ellis, who caught last night’s game and batted second, gets the day off in favor of Ramon Hernandez, who is batting sixth.

None have matched the consistent production of Mark Ellis, who was hitting .342/.363/.452 at the time of the injury.

The 35-year-old, who has missed at least 30 games each of the last five seasons, is hoping to avoid the disabled list but acknowledged that “you never want to handcuff a manager or handcuff a team.”

Expect a decision in the next day or two.

Dodgers’ Mark Ellis leaves game with strained right quadriceps. (Poll)

Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis left Friday night’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers with a strained right quadriceps.

Ellis sustained the injury running out a routine ground ball in the fifth inning. He slowed up just before reaching first base, clutching the top of his right leg.

Ellis was replaced by Nick Punto and did not return to the game.

Although Ellis’ .991 fielding percentage at second base is fourth in baseball history, the Dodgers have some experienced defensive replacements on the bench. Jerry Hairston Jr. has 3,050 career chances at second base with a .981 fielding percentage. Punto has 1,332 chances at second base with a .983 fielding percentage.

It’s not immediately clear how much time Ellis will need to recuperate. Assuming he’s not available for more than a few games, the greater question facing the Dodgers is: Who will bat second?

Daily Distractions: Fun with small sample sizes; Yasiel Puig; picture gallery.

Carl Crawford Matt Kemp

Carl Crawford (left) and Matt Kemp (right), respectively, the best and one of the worst hitters in the National League. (Associated Press photo)


Carl Crawford is the best hitter in the National League.

Care to disagree?

He leads the Senior Circuit in batting average (.464), on-base percentage (.531), is tied for fourth in OPS (1.246), tied for eighth in runs (8) and seventh in stolen bases (2).

Less than 10 games into the season, we can cherry-pick a few more eye-raising stats.

Three Dodgers – Mark Ellis (4.83), A.J. Ellis (4.67) and Andre Ethier (4.32) – are among the top eight in pitches per plate appearance. The Mark McGwire effect? Maybe. Adrian Gonzalez is seeing the seventh-fewest pitches per plate appearances in the NL, 3.30, tied with some kid named Bryce Harper. Yet somehow Gonzalez has more walks (4) than strikeouts (3) this season.

As for Ethier, who turned 31 yesterday, he’s batting .429 against left-handed pitchers and .182 against righties. His lefty-righty splits were .222 and .325 last year.

On the flip side, Matt Kemp‘s batting average is .167.

Clearly, the guy doesn’t belong in the big leagues.

Here are some bullet points for a Thursday morning:

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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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Daily Distractions: Time to forget about Robinson Cano?

Robinson Cano rocks a Cleveland Cavaliers sweater while bro-hugging Jay-Z at a Cavs playoff game in 2009. C.C. Sabathia (right) photo-bombs. Which of them will be Yankees in 2013?    (Getty Images)

If Robinson Cano isn’t the Dodgers’ second baseman next year, blame Jay-Z. A little.

More accurately, you might blame Cano for switching agents this week, from Boras Corp. to the brand-new Roc Nation Sports Agency, a Jay-Z creation. Cano is Roc Nation’s first client.

Jay-Z is not Cano’s agent — in fact, Cano will be represented by CAA’s Brodie Van Wagenen. CAA and Roc Nation have some sort of a working agreement and it’s unclear how the particulars of that arrangement shake out. Regardless, here’s what we know:

1. Jay-Z is a Yankees fan who would probably like to see his team re-sign its best player.
2. CAA is less likely to usher its star clients onto the free-agent market than Boras.

FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal asked Van Wagenen the question on every Dodger fan’s mind: Will Cano hit free agency when his contract expires at the end of the season, or will he re-sign with the Yankees before then?

Cano, who is eligible for free agency at the end of the season, enjoys playing for the Yankees and is open to staying with the club.

“New York and Yankees fans have been great for Robbie,” Van Wagenen said. “He has flourished in pinstripes and loved his time in the city. His primary focus is continuing to represent that brand and help his team win games.

“Is there an opening for him to explore a contract? You know us. We’re not going to talk publicly about that. We certain will continue to work diligently to help him achieve his goals both on and off the field.”

There isn’t much to read into there, but it’s probably time to line up a Plan B in your fantasy 2014 Dodgers lineup. The Dodgers hold a club option for their current second baseman and number-two hitter, Mark Ellis, once his contract expires after this season. Ellis turns 36 in June. His age, and his career .265/.331/.394 slash line, are why no one is clamoring for the Dodgers to exercise that option — even if Ellis is the team’s best defensive infielder.
As for other second basemen who could become free agents at the end of the season, the Rays hold an option on Ben Zobrist; Chase Utley will be 35; Brian Roberts will be 36; and there’s always Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. (Full list courtesy of MLBTradeRumors.com).
Some bullet points:
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Batting first for the Dodgers, Hanley Ramirez.

Hanley Ramirez is batting leadoff in the Dodgers’ first game of spring training against the Chicago White Sox. Most of the other regulars in the lineup slotted into a familiar position: Mark Ellis second, Adrian Gonzalez third, Andre Ethier fourth, A.J. Ellis eighth. So what’s up with Hanley hitting first?

“I wanted to make sure I can get him three at-bats without having to play him seven innings,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly has said that he envisions Carl Crawford batting first once the regular season begins. But with Crawford’s uncertain health status, the Dodgers must use spring training to explore their options for the leadoff slot.

Mark Ellis batted leadoff much of last season. So did Dee Gordon, though he’ll need luck on his side to be there on Opening Day in Los Angeles.

Other Dodgers in camp who started games in the leadoff position last year include Tony Gwynn Jr. (21 games), Skip Schumaker (8 games for St. Louis), Elian Herrera (7), Jerry Hairston Jr. (6), Nick Punto (5) and Justin Sellers (1).

Dodgers spring training preview: Infielders.

Adrian Gonzalez

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez is about as close as it gets to a sure thing here – on the field, in the community, in the clubhouse. Second baseman Mark Ellis is aging but consistent. Then the questions begin. Who will back him up? Can Hanley Ramirez’s glove be trusted at shortstop or at third base? What happens to Dee Gordon? What is Juan Uribe doing here?

Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston Jr., who can be expected to log some innings on the infield, were intentionally previewed with the outfielders. Upward and onward:

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Why the Dodgers radically altered their lineup.

The Dodgers’ lineup got a last-minute makeover Wednesday, giving it an unfamiliar look for today’s game against the Padres:

Herrera LF
Punto 2B
Kemp CF
Gonzalez 1B
Ramirez SS
Cruz 3B
Rivera RF
Treanor C
Harang P

Two of the changes were brought on by injury. Shane Victorino was originally leading off, but his injured left wrist is preventing him from batting right-handed — the side he needs to bat from against Padres left-hander Clayton Richard. Second baseman Mark Ellis is ill and undergoing IV treatment today, manager Don Mattingly said.

The other changes weren’t. A.J. Ellis isn’t catching a day game after a night game, as usual. Andre Ethier is 4 for 28 with a double and four RBIs in his career against Richard, and .215/.270/.321 against all lefties this season, so he’s out in favor of Rivera (who’s 0 for 8 lifetime against Richard.
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‘Paco’ Rodriguez is here to help right away.

Two things you should know about new Dodgers pitcher Steven Rodriguez:

1. Only his mother calls him Steven. Everyone else calls him “Paco.”
2. He is not here to learn.

According to manager Don Mattingly, the 21-year-old could serve a valuable role out of the bullpen immediately. Because of injuries to Scott Elbert and Ted Lilly, Rodriguez joins Randy Choate as the Dodgers’ only healthy lefty reliever.

No 2012 draft pick has pitched in a major-league game yet, so Rodriguez was understandably surprised.

“Yesterday I was eating with our bullpen catcher back in Chattanooga and De Jon (Watson, the Dodgers’ farm director) calls me and says, ‘hey I’ve got some bad news for you.’

“I said, ‘what’s going on?’ And he’s like, ‘you’re going to have to drop your food, go pack your (belongings) and come in to L.A.’ My heart just started beating fast. A great feeling. Then I just called my parents, let them know I was coming up.”
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