Dodgers bench their hottest hitter against Marlins; Yasiel Puig returns.

Yasiel Puig

In this photo posted to the Dodgers’ Facebook account today (and quite possibly staged), rookie Yasiel Puig points to a clock inside Marlins Park.

Yasiel Puig is on time and in the Dodgers’ lineup today.

Puig was benched (for poor play) and fined (for being late) Tuesday afternoon, only to come back and hit the game-winning home run later in the day.

The Dodgers are facing a familiar hard-throwing right-hander in Nate Eovaldi.

The notable absence from the lineup today? Juan Uribe, who’s hitting .588 (10-for-17) with three doubles, a homer and four RBI through five games on the Dodgers’ road trip. Uribe ranks ninth in the National League with a .355 batting average (22-for-62) in 19 games this month. He’s 9 for 13 (.692) with three RBI in five games against Miami this season — but will have to pull a Puig off the bench to continue his hot streak today.

Here’s the Dodgers’ full lineup:
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Daily Distractions: The Dodgers’ pitching depth could be worse.

Ted Lilly

Ted Lilly makes his 2013 debut today against the New York Mets. (Getty Images)

When Ted Lilly starts tonight, the Dodgers will have used eight starters in their first 20 games of the season. SI recaps how the Dodgers got there.

The eight-starter experiment was basically a big game of “what if”: What if Chad Billingsley‘s elbow doesn’t hold up? What if Ted Lilly isn’t the same pitcher he was pre-surgery? What if the best pitcher in Korea can be one of the best pitchers in the United States? What if he can’t?

Here’s another “what if”: What if the Dodgers hadn’t gone out and acquired Josh Beckett, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and entered this season with the same collection of starters they had a year ago?

Now you’re looking at Nathan Eovaldi stepping into the fifth starter’s job to replace Billingsley. Oh, wait. Eovaldi hasn’t pitched since spring training because of a shoulder issue. He’s on the 60-day disabled list (currently the Miami Marlins’ problem). Come on down, Stephen Fife.

After Fife, you’re looking at Allen Webster (who made his first major league start three days ago), Rubby De La Rosa (9.31 ERA for Boston’s Triple-A affiliate), Fernando Nieve, John Ely and perhaps Sandy Koufax as the next in line to start a game for the Dodgers.

You can thank your lucky Guggenheims that isn’t the case.

Some more bullet points for a Wednesday morning:
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Daily Distractions: A bad spring training pic as the Dodgers get down to business.

Camelback Ranch Glendale

That photo won’t make the Bad Spring Training TwitPics hall of shame, but that’s only because I didn’t post it on Twitter. It was the sight greeting everyone at Camelback Ranch on the first day of spring training Tuesday morning.

Tuesday was an inherently eventful day, typically droll as spring training days go but more exciting than the last four and a half months of no baseball. I posted the blow-by-blow on my Twitter account, which you can follow here if you’re not doing so already. The question of what the Dodgers will do with their eight starting pitchers dominated the dialogue. You can read all about that here.

Today marks the first day of workouts for pitchers and catchers. Manager Don Mattingly was in rare form, using humor to deflect questions about his expiring contract. Comparing himself to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s portrayal of former Oakland manger Art Howe on a one-year contract with the Moneyball A’s, he told reporters at Camelback Ranch, “I’m built better than that guy.”

There’s no contest, really (see here and here). Onto some heavier material, because we can’t get much lighter …

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Stan Kasten wants you to know the Dodgers aren’t trying to buy a championship.

Here’s one quote that did not make any of the 10 blog posts or two stories I filed from Dodger Stadium yesterday. It’s from Stan Kasten.

“I want to stress … we continue to believe in the importance of building a foundation through scouting and player development,” Kasten said. “We won’t be what we want to be until we build the system of players.”

“The great advantage of this ownership is, we can do both at the same time.”

Sounds a little utopian, right? Let’s take a look at the hit the Dodgers’ farm system just absorbed.

In acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Carl Crawford, Joe Blanton, Josh Beckett, Nick Punto, Randy Choate and Brandon League,here’s what the Dodgers sacrificed from their system:
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Dodgers acquire Hanley Ramirez from Marlins.

The Dodgers have acquired infielder Hanley Ramirez and left-handed reliever Randy Choate from the Miami Marlins for pitcher Nathan Eovaldi and minor-league pitcher Scott McGough.

Ramirez, 28, was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006, when he hit .292/.353/.480 (BA/OBP/SLG) with 17 homers and 59 RBIs. He hit a career-high 33 home runs in 2008 and won a batting title the next season, hitting a career-high .342.

Between injuries and poor play, however, Ramirez wore out his welcome in Miami. In 2011 Ramirez missed the final two months of the season with a shoulder injury; he also missed two weeks in June with a lower back strain. His stats suffered too: a .243 average, .333 on-base percentage, .379 slugging percentage, 10 home runs and 45 RBIs were all career lows. Ramirez’s stolen bases have also plummeted from 51 in 2006, to 20 in 2011, and 14 this year.

But he gives an immediate boost of power to a Dodgers team that ranks last in the majors in home runs (60). Ramirez’s 14 home runs and 47 RBIs both ranked second on the Marlins; only Matt Kemp has hit as many home runs and only Andre Ethier has more RBIs among the Dodgers. Ramirez is batting .246 this season, mostly out of the second or third spot in the order.

A shortstop in his first six major-league seasons, Ramirez switched to third base this season after the Marlins signed veteran shortstop Jose Reyes last winter. Ramirez’s eight errors are the ninth-fewest among everyday major-league third basemen.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, quoting Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, wrote on his Twitter account: “It’s no secret I love the kid. He needs to have a fresh beginning, a new beginning. This is a very painful moment for me. But we had to do something.”

Earlier Tuesday, USA Today reported that both the owner and Miami manager Ozzie Guillen wanted Ramirez traded.

Choate, 36, joins his fifth team in a 12-year major league career. He is tied for 19th in the National League in appearances (44) and has held left-handed hitters to a .150 batting average this season while not allowing a home run.
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