Arizona Diamondbacks 9, Dodgers 2: D-Backs’ ‘B’ team batters Dodgers.

The sticker shock of the quality of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lineup quickly wore off, then reversed course.

With a lineup slim on quality major-league talent — Didi Gregorius batted third and Mike Jacobs, who’s played 20 major-league games since 2009, hit cleanup — the Diamondbacks scored nine runs in six innings en route to a win in their last meeting with the Dodgers before Opening Day.

Zack Greinke allowed three runs, Zach Lee allowed four (three were earned) and Chris Perez allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning out of the bullpen. J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow, Kenley Jansen and minor-leaguer Romulo Sanchez combined to throw 3 ⅔ scoreless innings of relief.

A two-run double by Andre Ethier off Arizona right-hander Mike Lee accounted for the Dodgers’ scoring.

Matt Kemp makes progress in Dodgers’ minor-league game, major-league games still a ways off.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp played one inning in center field in a minor-league intrasquad game Wednesday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — For as much progress as he made Wednesday, Matt Kemp‘s measured thoughts after his latest minor-league rehab game proved just how long a journey he faces before he’s able to play for the Dodgers.

Kemp took a big step forward by playing one inning in center field against a group of Dodgers minor leaguers, something he hasn’t done in any kind of competitive environment since Sept. 27, 2013. Three weeks after that, he had a major microfracture surgery performed on the talus bone in his left ankle.
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Updates on Zack Greinke, Matt Kemp, and lineups for the Dodgers’ two real games today.


GLENDALE, Ariz. — With Dodgers chairman Mark Walter, president Stan Kasten, chief marketing officer Lon Rosen, manager Don Mattingly, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, and other coaches and team officials in attendance, a simulated game took place on a back field at Camelback Ranch this morning.

Unlike the two other games featuring uniformed Dodgers players today, this one didn’t count for anything. It did, however, feature Zack Greinke pitching to Matt Kemp. Kemp is in the late stages of his ankle rehabilitation — stage 6 of 7, specifically — and Greinke was facing live hitters for the first time since straining his right calf Feb. 27.

Greinke said he threw 35 pitches in the simulated game, about half to Kemp and the other half to Scott Schebler. He threw another 50 in the bullpen.

“I’m feeling healthy,” Greinke said. “I wanted to see some hitters, try to throw several different pitches. They all kind of came out pretty good. Not midseason form or anything but pretty good.”

Despite repeated prodding, Greinke wouldn’t say when or where his next outing will come. Based on his own assessment, another simulated game or a minor-league game might be in order, since Greinke’s health and repertoire are still works in progress.

Greinke got Kemp to swing and miss at a big curveball, “but he was hitting the fastball good.” The final pitch of both of Kemp’s at-bats Greinke are above.

In a couple days, Greinke thinks his calf will be healed; for now fielding ground balls off the mound remains an issue.

“I can field,” he said. “If Dee Gordon hit a ground ball to first, I wouldn’t be able to beat him to first. Right now I wouldn’t be able to get there in time. But if A.J. Ellis did I still might not, but I’d probably be able to get there in time.”

As for Kemp, he ran the bases under the watch of Dodgers head athletic trainer Stan Conte. Later, he practiced tracking fly balls in center field at less than full speed.

Paul Maholm is starting the Dodgers’ noon (PST) game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium, and Josh Beckett is starting the 6 p.m. home game against the Seattle Mariners. The latter will be televised on MLB Network for all you non-Time Warner subscribers.

Mattingly clarified one thing about Yasiel Puig‘s excused absence today: The Dodgers have known that Puig would be gone today, and returning Sunday, since the beginning of camp. Whatever his “personal issue” is — Mattingly wouldn’t say — it is not a last-minute emergency. It’s believed that Puig is not in the Phoenix area.

The Dodgers’ next two games at Camelback Ranch — tonight and tomorrow — are sold out.

Here are the lineups for both teams, both games:

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers won’t say when Matt Kemp will play in a game.


GLENDALE, Ariz. — Somewhere, the AlterG treadmill that served as Matt Kemp‘s exercise lifeline for weeks is collecting dust. Kemp is out in the open, where he should be, taking batting practice and running on a baseball field.

Tuesday, he was cleared to run a curved path with Dodgers first-base coach Davey Lopes watching. Since he was first cleared to run on Saturday, he had only been running straight lines.

His swing (above) looks normal. His body, chiseled from an off-season spent doing upper body work in the gym, looks better than normal. The only question is, when will Kemp be able to start playing games?

“Part of the plan is not to have a timetable,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Tuesday, “as far as throwing a date out there, so you guys can say ‘April 1,’ then we get to April 1 and he’s not quite ready so now he’s off schedule. If something happened he had ‘a setback.’

“The more he does, the more he steps forward, continues to do more without having setbacks, the more he continues to do and that tells us where we’re at.”

Kemp has said repeatedly that he won’t rush himself back. Playing in the Dodgers’ season-opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney, Australia is out. The first game on North American soil, March 30 against the Padres in San Diego, hasn’t been ruled out.

That’s the good news. It’s also all the news.

“Stan (Conte, the Dodgers’ head athletic trainer) has characterized it as kind of like the fifth stage of a seven-stage rehab,” Mattingly said. “So (Kemp) is getting there. We’re confident that he’s going in the right direction. I don’t think anyone wants to put pressure on Matt to say ‘this is the date’ because then it’s an artificial timetable. Then if he’s not ready he starts to feel like he’s behind schedule.”

Some bullet points for a Holy Experiment Day:
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Morning injury updates on Zack Greinke (calf), Matt Kemp (ankle), Ross Stripling (elbow).

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke threw three pitches in his first Cactus League start on Thursday before exiting with a cramp in his right calf muscle. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Zack Greinke will receive treatment today on his strained right calf muscle and could be throwing a bullpen session as early as tomorrow.

That was a fairly optimistic outlook one day after Greinke couldn’t get through two batters in his first Cactus League start. Greinke could even play catch today, Mattingly said. He was seen walking through the clubhouse without discomfort.

“Zack actually came in pretty good today,” Mattingly said.

The news was not as upbeat for Ross Stripling, who will undergo a “contrast MRI” on his right elbow after reporting discomfort, Mattingly said. The 24-year-old informed the club that he first felt pain in the elbow “five, six” days ago but didn’t tell the team until after he pitched the final two innings Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“He didn’t tell any trainer, he didn’t tell any coach,” Mattingly said. “It’s one of the things we talk about with young guys. It happens every spring. You ask them to let somebody know and they don’t want to tell anybody because they want to compete and show that they’re going to be whatever. Ross is a great kid but it does go back to that same old thing that happens every spring. Hopefully it’s a situation that puts him a little bit behind schedule. A lot of times we feel that if you’re going to take care of it, it may put you behind schedule for two days instead of a week or 10 days, which really pushes you back.”

There is no news on Matt Kemp, who was scheduled to undergo an MRI today on his surgically repaired left ankle. Kemp actually had the MRI Thursday, but Mattingly said that team Dr. Neal ElAttrache would not be relaying the results until “sometime this weekend.”

Kemp took the field with teammates as usual for stretches but still hasn’t been cleared to run. The team is in no rush to have Kemp on the field for the season-opening series in Sydney, Australia on March 22-23. The 29-year-old outfielder figures to begin the season on the disabled list regardless of the MRI results.

Matt Kemp and Zack Greinke drafted two teams of Dodgers. How will they line up Sunday?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Dodgers will play a pair of intrasquad games Sunday and Monday at Camelback Ranch, their first of spring training. Tomorrow’s game begins at 11:30 a.m. on the first back field (closest to the major-league clubhouse) and is free to the public.

The method for choosing position players was interesting.

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Daily Distractions: Dodgers aren’t counting on Matt Kemp to appear in Sydney games.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp hasn’t begun running in spring training. The Dodgers depart for Australia on March 16. (Associated Press photo)

Don Mattingly solved the “The Four Outfielder Problem.” For two games, at least.

The Dodgers’ manager doesn’t believe that Matt Kemp will be available for the Dodgers’ season-opening trip to Sydney, Australia on March 22. Kemp hasn’t been cleared to run on flat ground and won’t be until he undergoes an MRI exam next week.

“I don’t think we’re — we’re not hopeful for Australia,” Mattingly said. “The MRI next week … will let us know where he’s at.”

Kemp is facing live pitching on a minor-league field at Camelback Ranch today. Throughout spring training he has been able to maintain his weightlifting regimen and exercise on an AlterG anti-gravity treadmill.

But that is different from running on flat ground, or patrolling the outfield, or turning around first base.

“It’s just the fact that he hasn’t been on the grass, running and cutting,” Mattingly said. “How long that takes, once they clear him to start that type of thing, that will be a progression.”

For now, expect an outfield of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig in Australia — if all are healthy.

Some bullet points for an International Mother Language Day:
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Don Mattingly says that Matt Kemp has no schedule for resuming full baseball activities.

Matt Kemp

Matt Kemp sprained his left ankle on July 21, 2013. He had surgery in October and hasn’t been cleared to run since. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked Thursday to outline Matt Kemp‘s timetable for recovery from surgery on his left ankle last October. It’s one of the most burning questions in camp: When will Kemp, who hasn’t been cleared to run since the surgery, be able to resume full baseball activities?

“There’s really no true schedule, I think, with Matt other than when the ankle’s healed he gets to do more,” Mattingly said. “He’s able to hit. He’s hitting off the tee. He’s going to be able to do a lot of things. But included in those things is not going to be running outside. That’s a pretty important part of what he does. Until that ankle lets us know that he can move forward, you can’t really do a whole lot different.”

Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire has been pleased with Kemp’s swings in the batting cage, Mattingly said. Kemp has been able to lift weights normally with his upper body, something he wasn’t able to do all last year while he dealt with a surgically repaired left shoulder. There is some optimism early in camp that Kemp’s power could return to its 2009-12 levels, when he averaged 29 home runs a season.

But, Mattingly said, “until the doctors tell us that (Kemp’s ankle) is totally healed, we don’t really have a schedule for him.”

Dodgers’ Matt Kemp: ‘I’m not in a rush to get back.’

Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp vowed that 2014 will be different.

After missing 87 regular-season games and all of October because of a strained hamstring, a sprained ankle, and a surgically repaired shoulder that was never 100 percent, Kemp said he won’t rush back from any injuries this season.

That might mean missing Opening Day in Australia on March 22. Kemp is at peace with that.

“I’m not in a rush to get back,” he said. “I’ve got to make sure I’m healthy and everything is good.”

Considering that Kemp hasn’t begun running yet, playing in a regular-season game in seven weeks seems unrealistic. Kemp said Saturday at the Dodgers’ FanFest that running is the only thing he can’t do. He’s been able to do normal upper-body workouts — something he couldn’t do all of last year.

But he’s not in the best shape of his life. Hasn’t been for two years. At least now, Kemp seems realistic about this.

“I would love to play in those games” in Australia, Kemp said. “I just want to be 100 percent the whole year.”

The Dodgers can bring 30 players when they depart to Australia, but only 25 can be active in each game.

Daily Distractions: Cut fastball could fast-track Ross Stripling to Los Angeles.

Ross Stripling

Dodgers pitching prospect Ross Stripling didn’t throw a cut fastball in college at Texas A&M, but it led to plenty of success at Double-A Chattanooga. (Texas A&M photo)

If Ross Stripling appears in a major-league game with the Dodgers this season, the 25-year-old will inevitably draw comparisons to all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera.

But hey, the kid started it when he began describing how he embraced the cut fastball, the pitch that defined Rivera’s 19-year career.

“I throw from such a high arm slot, and these balls have such smaller laces than college balls, they’ll just move on their own,” Stripling said earlier this month at the Dodgers’ winter development camp.

“If I just switch the ball a little bit in my fingers” — he turned the ball 30 degrees from a two-seam fastball grip — “it would cut on its own. I struggled to not cut the ball. I wanted to throw the ball where I wanted. They were like, ‘Maybe you should go with it.’ Then you hear the story that Mariano Rivera learned his cutter that way — not that I’m trying to compare myself to Mariano Rivera — but similar fashion. It was natural, then I just tried to fine-tune.”

Stripling posted a 2.78 earned-run average following his promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. Even more impressive was Stripling’s 4.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 94 Double-A innings. Continuing the theme of unfair comparisons, not even Clayton Kershaw‘s K:BB ratio was that high at Double-A.

The 25-year-old’s talent is still raw. He still isn’t on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, though a roster spot is rarely given to second-year professionals in the off-season since there is no risk of losing them through the Rule 5 draft. Stripling never called his own pitches, and never watched video of his performance, before 2013. He’s also got a four-pitch repertoire that he’s still mastering; he added the cutter last year to a fastball, changeup and curveball that served him well in college.

Stripling was a fifth-round draft pick by the Dodgers out of Texas A&M in 2012. In college, Stripling was teammates with Michael Wacha, the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher who was named MVP of the National League Championship Series after beating the Dodgers twice in the Cardinals’ six-game series victory.

Like Stripling, Wacha had all his pitches called for him from the dugout in college. That didn’t stop him from reaching the majors after only 26 minor-league appearances.

“His fastball is so strong, so demanding, that he can just throw that when he wants,” Stripling said of Wacha. “His changeup is kind of the same way,” Stripling said.

Much of the inertia pushing the Dodgers toward signing Masahiro Tanaka is money. That is to say: They have the money, so why not make a run? A lesser factor, not to be discounted, is the fact that Stephen Fife and Matt Magill were starting games by the end of April.

If the Dodgers don’t land Tanaka, it means that Stripling — along with Fife, Magill, Zach Lee and maybe swingman Seth Rosin — all move up the organizational depth chart. And we might get to see that cutter sooner rather than later.

Some bullet points for a National Hugging Day:
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