Daily Distractions: Julio Urias gets his Mexican food, and Dodgers fans in Rancho Cucamonga get their prospects.

Julio Urias

Julio Urias struck out Will Venable and Yonder Alonso and got Chris Denorfia to ground out in his only spring training inning. (Associated Press photo)

This is a rough map of all the Mexican restaurants in Rancho Cucamonga.

Julio Urias is waiting.

On March 15, after he pitched a scoreless inning against the San Diego Padres — something Brian Wilson couldn’t do last night — Urias still didn’t know where he would begin the regular season. At least the Dodgers’ prized pitching prospect had no trouble identifying the hardest part of being uprooted to the United States at 16.

“It wasn’t really hard except for the food,” he said in Spanish. “The food was probably the hardest part for me.”

Fortunately for Urias, now 17, there are many options in the neighborhood of the Dodgers’ Single-A affiliate in the California League.

As we reported yesterday, Urias will be assigned to Rancho along with 2013 first-round draft picks Chris Anderson and Tom Windle, along with Corey Seager, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2012.

In case you’re counting at home, that’s four of the club’s top 10 prospects (per MLB.com) playing in one spot, about an hour east of Los Angeles.

Urias, Anderson and Windle all finished last season with Class-A Great Lakes, and each saw action in one Cactus League game. The Dodgers drafted Anderson and Windle in the first and second rounds of the 2013 draft, respectively, out of college. Urias was signed as a free agent out of Culiacan, Mexico.

Pitcher Zach Lee and outfielder Joc Pederson will begin the season with Triple-A Albuquerque. So will Matt Magill and possibly Onelki Garcia once he’s healthy.

Some bullet points for a Cesar Chavez Day:
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Spring training ends poorly for Dodgers’ Dan Haren.

Miguel Rojas

Miguel Rojas, who grounded out on this at-bat Saturday, finished spring training with a .387 batting average, second on the Dodgers to Justin Turner’s .389. (Associated Press photo)

ANAHEIM — Dan Haren‘s final spring tuneup was one to forget.

The right-hander allowed all six Angels runs in a 6-2 Dodgers loss before an announced crowd of 43,553 at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

The Dodgers resume regular-season play tomorrow in San Diego. It’s the Padres’ first game of the season. Opening Day for most major-league teams is Monday.

Last weekend, the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks twice in Sydney, Australia and have a regular-season record of 2-0. They came back and lost two of three to the Angels, officially finishing spring training with a 7-12-5 record.

Haren didn’t go to Australia. Since the Dodgers only needed two starting pitchers (and kept Paul Maholm for insurance), Haren stayed behind and pitched minor-league spring training games in Arizona.

The playing environment changed dramatically Saturday. Haren went from games with no official statistics and no names on the back of players’ jerseys to a sold-out stadium. The change seemed to have caught him by surprise.

The Angels scored two runs in the first inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Albert Pujols and David Freese. In the second inning, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun hit back-to-back home runs.

Trout’s home run came on a hanging split-fingered fastball, Haren said, while almost all of the Angels’ other hard hits came off his cut fastball. Haren allowed six hits in two innings.

“It was just kind of getting it a little bit flat,” Haren said of his cutter. “I have to have the mindset of driving it down and away to a righty rather than just leaving it out there.

“I’m going to throw quite a few of them in the bullpen. I need to get that sharpened up. My other pitches were actually OK. I struggled with it last start too in the minor leagues. I threw a bunch in the last inning of that game.”

Haren starts Wednesday in San Diego, the finale of the three-game series with the Padres. His final major-league spring training ERA: 6.00.

“It’s the last one that doesn’t count,” Haren said. “No use thinking about it too much. I got some work in. It’s been a while since I felt like I’ve been on a mound, it seems like, at least in a real game. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I feel OK. Just flush it down and move on to the next one.”

Said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: ”I’m glad it’s tonight and not Wednesday.”

The Dodgers scored both of their runs in the third inning on a two-run double by Chone Figgins. Most of the starters played only two defensive innings.

It was a good day for the Dodgers’ bullpen. Against almost entirely major-league competition, they combined for six scoreless innings: One by Brandon League, three by Matt Magill and two by Red Patterson.

The box score is here.

A few more notes:
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Dodgers tie Oakland, trim camp roster by five.

Matt Magill

Pitcher Matt Magill was optioned to the minors on Monday, one of five players cut from the Dodgers’ major-league camp roster. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers trimmed their camp roster by five after tying the Oakland A’s on Monday.

There were no surprises on the list: Pitcher Matt Magill was optioned to the minor-league side, and non-roster invitees J.C. Boscan, Carlos Frias, Brendan Harris and Clint Robinson were reassigned to the minor-league side.

Magill, the only player of the group on the 40-man roster, pitched 5 ⅔ innings, allowing three hits, one run, walking two and striking out six. The only run came on a solo home run March 5 by Cincinnati Reds prospect Neftali Soto. Magill, a 24-year-old right-hander from Simi Valley, was not a candidate to make the major-league rotation.

Of the four non-roster invitees, Harris had the most realistic chance of earning a major-league roster spot, if only because of the Dodgers’ needs on the bench and at second base. He needed a good camp to prove that he was not the same player who registered -2.3 WAR (baseball-reference.com version) since 2009. Harris didn’t have a good camp. He batted 3 for 19 (.158) with three walks.

Boscan, a 34-year-old catcher with 30 major-league plate appearances to his credit, went 1 for 4 with a pair of walks.

Frias made four Cactus League appearances and allowed five runs, including three Monday without recording an out in the Dodgers’ 8-8 tie. The 24-year-old right-hander advanced as high as Double-A last year and could earn a promotion to Triple-A at some point this season.

The 29-year-old Robinson showed why the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league deal in the off-season, batting .348 (11 for 23) with a solo home run. Robinson batted .292 at Triple-A Omaha last year and is expected to start at first base this year for Triple-A Albuquerque.

The Dodgers have 41 players on their camp roster, not including pitcher Scott Elbert (on the 60-day disabled list) and infielder Erisbel Arruebarruena, who is still awaiting his U.S. work visa. The roster must be down to 28 — 25 players who are eligible to play the two games in Sydney, Australia, plus another three designated as inactive — by 7 p.m. March 21.

Dodgers’ intrasquad game is in the books; Dee Gordon, Hanley Ramirez make some noise.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hyun-Jin Ryu allowed home runs to Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez in the first inning of the Dodgers’ intrasquad game on Sunday. (Associated Press photo)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Dee Gordon and Hanley Ramirez hit home runs against Hyun-Jin Ryu in the first inning of the Dodgers’ 4-inning intrasquad game Sunday at Camelback Ranch. Those accounted for all the runs in a 3-1 victory for Team Wills (drafted by Matt Kemp) over Team Koufax (drafted by Zack Greinke.)
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Daily Distractions: Because it’s never too soon, sizing up the Dodgers’ 2015 rotation.

Zach Lee

Zach Lee will attend his first spring training this weekend. Will he be in the Dodgers’ rotation in 2015? (Associated Press photo)


Today, we look ahead to next fall because, well, why not?

Josh Beckett, Dan Haren and Chad Billingsley — if the Dodgers decline his option — will become free agents after this season. Do the Dodgers have two pitchers in their system who would be ready to fill the fourth and fifth spots in the rotation by 2015?

Maybe. Zach Lee continues to be ranked as a top-100 prospect with middle-of-the-rotation potential. Ross Stripling could be closer than Lee to reaching the majors, depending on who you talk to in the organization. Julio Urias is 17, so probably not. The jury’s still out on the potential of Matt Magill, Seth Rosin and a few others.

The jury’s still out on all of them, actually, since you simply never know how much time a prospect needs to reach his potential. And if the Dodgers’ transactions log over the past two years indicates nothing else, it’s that they prefer proven performance to potential.

So who’s in the next wave of free-agent starters? The list could include Max Scherzer, James Shields, Justin Masterson, Homer Bailey and Jon Lester. Even if Scherzer gets a big extension from the Detroit Tigers, as expected, that’s still a strong class — stronger than this year’s, certainly. All of the Dodgers’ free-agent decisions this year were made with potential 2015 free agents in mind. (That principle applies every winter.)

In the linked piece, FanGraphs.com’s Dave Cameron concludes that Scherzer, Lester and Bailey are the most likely to re-sign long-term extensions. That potentially leaves Shields and Masterson as the cream of the 2015 crop. Depending on their health and performance in 2014, they would almost certainly be the best fourth starters in baseball if they joined the Dodgers.

Cameron predicts that Shields could command a five- or six-year contract “and probably close to the $25 million AAV that many of the better pitchers have attained recently.” Shields turned 32 in December. Despite his career WAR of 28.0 in eight seasons, that’s still quite a bit of risk to take on.

But so is giving the job to a prospect.

Taken together, who do you like in the group to fill out the 2015 rotation?

Some bullet points for a Tuesday morning:
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Daily Distractions: Who will be the next Hall of Fame inductee with a Dodgers logo on his cap?

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux pitched 23 games, regular and postseason, in separate stints with the Dodgers in 2006 and 2008. (Getty Images)

Greg Maddux won’t have a logo on his Baseball Hall of Fame cap. It was never going to be a Dodgers logo, but that got me to thinking: Who will be the next Hall of Fame inductee with a Dodgers logo on his cap?

The Hall of Fame has a list of future candidates, listed by year of eligibility. (They haven’t gotten around to scratching Bobby Abreu‘s name off the 2018 list, assuming Abreu makes the Phillies’ roster.) Another future eligible is still on the Dodgers’ payroll (Andruw Jones). Jeff Weaver and Chan Ho Park become eligible in 2016.

Among the serious candidates, Manny Ramirez and Gary Sheffield did some of their best work in Dodgers uniforms.

Manny is 14th on the career home run list, and ninth in career slugging percentage and OPS. But he spent eight seasons in Cleveland and eight in Boston before his brief tenure as a Dodger. He also failed a drug test. Given the current climate toward known PED users among Hall voters, that won’t bode well for Ramirez. It didn’t bode well for the candidacy of Rafael Palmeiro (12th on the career home run list, off the ballot next year).

Sheffield played for eight teams in 22 seasons. If that doesn’t scream “please don’t put a logo on my hat,” I don’t know what does. And despite his gaudy career numbers, they aren’t much gaudier than those of Jeff Bagwell (listed on 54.3 percent of ballots this year) or Larry Walker (10.2 percent). He also took a designer steroid by his own admission, albeit by accident, and that might be enough to earn a thumbs-down from three-quarters of Hall voters.

Looking at the current ballot, Mike Piazza will wear a Mets hat if he gets in. Jeff Kent (listed on 15.2 percent of recent ballots) isn’t getting in.

In reality, you might be looking at someone on the current roster — one of these four — but only if their skills, health and the voters cooperate. Don’t hold your breath.

Some bullet points for a Pie Day:
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Fifteen prospects invade Dodger Stadium starting Sunday.

Nick Buss

Outfielder Nick Buss is one of 15 players scheduled to participate in the Dodgers’ annual prospects development program this week. (Associated Press photo)

The Dodgers’ annual Winter Development Program, designed to help acclimate prospects to the major-league environment, begins Sunday and runs through Thursday at Dodger Stadium. The program is closed to the public.

Outfielder Joc Pederson, rated by Baseball America as the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect, headlines a list of 15 prospects scheduled to participate. Others include pitchers Seth Rosin, Zach Lee, Ross Stripling, Jose Dominguez, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia, Matt Magill, Chris Reed and Jarret Martin; outfielders Nick Buss and Scott Schebler; infielder Miguel Rojas; and catchers Pratt Maynard and Chris O’Brien.

Their schedule includes seminars with Dodger staffers and workouts that focus on fundamentals, strength training and conditioning. Off the field, the program is highlighted by sessions with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, general manager Ned Colletti, team president Stan Kasten, former manager Tommy Lasorda, and retired players Don Newcombe, Maury Wills, Eric Karros, Shawn Green. There will be social events in the greater Los Angeles area and a community service visit to A Place Called Home, a youth center in South L.A.

Six of the 11 participants in last year’s Winter Development Program played in the Major Leagues in 2013. Since its inception in 2008, 40 participating players have reached the big leagues.

Here’s a bit about what each player did in 2013, not including the winter league season:
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Daily Distractions: How the Dodgers might apply principles of chemistry and platooning to their $58.3 million outfield.

Carl Crawford Matt Kemp

Can Carl Crawford (left) and Matt Kemp (right) be happy under a four-man outfield platoon? The Dodgers might be counting on it. (Associated Press photo)

A couple opinions floating around today about what to do with the Dodgers’ four-outfielder conundrum: 1, Trading Andre Ethier is the most likely route; 2, Keeping everyone is the safest bet.

Maybe there’s another way we can look at the Dodgers stockpiling outfielders. It’s not unlike the strategy used a year ago by Oakland A’s, who entered last season with five viable starting outfielders (Yoenis Cespedes, Coco Crisp, Seth Smith, Josh Reddick and Chris Young).

Since it was the A’s, this personnel strategy was dissected under the market-efficiency microscope, then praised when Young underperformed, Cespedes and Crisp went down with injuries in April, and Reddick took his turn on the DL in late May. None of them were owed the kind of money Ethier, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig will earn in 2014 — $58.3 million, excluding any contract bonuses — but the A’s still won 96 games, four more than the Dodgers.

Don’t dismiss the integral role that club chemistry played in keeping the A’s outfielders happy with the platoon arrangement. Probably not coincidentally, Oakland recently signed former Dodgers infielder Nick Punto — a chemistry guy, a platoon guy.

With the Dodgers, the market-efficiency prism need not apply. That doesn’t mean that stockpiling outfielders (and starting pitchers, for that matter), hedging against the inevitable injuries, and counting on chemistry to abide in times of health, isn’t a wise personnel strategy worth the time of a team with a $215 million-plus budget.

The A’s walked into their situation more intentionally than the Dodgers, who probably didn’t count on the injuries that added up to 99 outfield starts for players other than their top four in 2013. Heck, general manager Ned Colletti might have traded Ethier, Kemp or Crawford by now if cost and health concerns were not enough to inhibit a rival GM from making a knock-me-down offer.

That hasn’t happened yet. It probably won’t. Whenever a reporter asks Colletti an outfield-related question that begins with “if everyone’s healthy…” his response usually begins with some variation of “do we know that everyone’s going to be healthy?”

So maybe the Dodgers backed into this desirable situation. That doesn’t make it undesirable.

Some bullet points for an Evacuation Day:
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Daily Distractions: Dodgers, others still waiting on first domino to fall in free-agent pitching market.

Masahiro Tanaka

Masahiro Tanaka will not be able to come to the United States until a new posting system is agreed to by MLB and NPB. (Associated Press photo)

Tim Hudson is off the board.

So is Jason Vargas.

So when will the Dodgers jump into the free-agent fray and sign a starting pitcher?

A few days ago, I was doing an interview with a Japanese television station that was interested in gauging the level of interest and awareness about Masahiro Tanaka in the United States. Frequently, the question of how good Tanaka might perform in the U.S. was raised; as the presumed cream of the free-agent crop, I guessed that the bar is being set pretty high.

And because he is considered the cream of the crop, Tanaka has the potential to hold up the market until MLB and NPB can agree to a new posting system. In my interview I theorized that a new posting system might cause a domino effect on the entire free-agent pitching market, with Tanaka becoming the first domino to fall.

That appears to be the case now, at least for the Dodgers and several other teams that have been linked to Tanaka. The Giants and Royals must have decided internally that they weren’t going to enter the bidding war, so they moved on with Hudson and Vargas, respectively. Confirmation was buried in this story in the St. Paul Pioneer Press which mentions, among other things, that the Minnesota Twins have shown “initial interest” in signing Chris Capuano:

Bidding on Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka has yet to open as Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball continue to haggle over a new posting system.

A Twins official recently called Tanaka “a key domino, from the financial to the ability.”

“For sure,” the official added, “he is a major linchpin in the pitching market.”

So while the Dodgers kick the tires on some of the second-tier free agent pitchers — Dan Haren has been reported, and there are certainly others — those pitchers might be nothing more than Plans B, C, D, E, and so on.

Some bullet points for a Lebanese Independence Day:
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