Daily Distractions: The significance of 2-2.

Adrian Gonzalez

The Dodgers are 38-8 in their last 46 games and need to win two of their next four to join an elite group of major-league teams. (Associated Press)

In his seminal 2000 book “The Tipping Point,” author Malcolm Gladwell identified a handful of small phenomena that predict wider epidemics. The Dodgers’ next four games could be one of those small phenomena.

If that seems a bit arbitrary, it is. Play along for a minute anyway.

On SportsIllustrated.com, Jay Jaffe tracked down the 16 major-league teams that have won at least 40 games over a 50-game stretch. Of the 16 teams, 15 reached the postseason and 13 reached the World Series. Two of the 40-win teams reached the World Series after divisional expansion in 1969: the 1998 Yankees and the 1975 Reds. (The 1977 Royals and 2001 Mariners did not.)

Now I don’t know if the 1912 New York Giants, whose 43-7 mark set the 50-game standard, could survive three rounds of playoffs and still win a World Series. I also don’t know if 50 games is the exact Tipping Point for identifying World Series-bound teams, the sample size that separates the champions from the streaky.

What I do know is that if the Dodgers go 2-2 in their next four games, they will do something achieved by only 16 other teams in major-league history — 81.3 percent of whom have gone on to reach the World Series. I like those odds.

Some links for a national left-hander’s day (which might favor Hyun-Jin Ryu tonight against Matt Harvey):
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Scott Elbert will undergo Tommy John surgery, won’t pitch until next year.

Dodgers pitcher Scott Elbert will undergo Tommy John surgery on his left elbow next week and miss the remainder of the 2013 season.

Elbert was diagnosed with a complete tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The expected time of recovery is 12-16 months.

This will be the third surgery Elbert has had on the elbow in the last year. He had operations to repair damaged cartilage in January and September 2012.
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Scott Elbert’s rehabilitation shut down.

Scott ElbertScott Elbert was getting closer.

The left-hander, who’s been on the disabled list since the season began, pitched on back-to-back nights May 25 and 26 on a rehab assignment for Double-A Chattanooga. That was supposed to be the final hurdle before Elbert returned to the Dodgers. He couldn’t clear it.

A recurrence of pain in his left elbow has forced Elbert to shut down his rehabilitation program. He’ll visit with a team doctor tomorrow to determine the next step.

Elbert, who is in the final year of his contract, had two surgeries on his left elbow this year. In 2012 he went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 43 appearances.

Elbert is on the 60-day disabled list. He went 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in eight rehab games this season between Single-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Chattanooga.

Daily Distractions: Texas two-step, Crawford hits, Elbert throws, plus links.

Rick Renteria, manager of Team Mexico, stops for an interview after his team’s 10-2 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday. If you watched this interview on TV in Mexico, now you know who that goofy-looking guy with the cell phone camera was.

The Dodgers are hosting the Texas Rangers today. Scott Van Slyke is starting at first base in his first call-up to the major league side since being demoted from the 40-man roster last year.

Keep an eye on the Rangers’ bullpen. Former Dodger Josh Lindblom, traded last year to the Philadelphia Phillies for Shane Victorino, is scheduled to pitch for Texas. Not many 25-year-old middle relievers can say they were traded for two former All-Stars, but Lindblom can (Victorino and Michael Young).

Three significant bits of injury news were widely reported out of Glendale this morning (I’m in Tempe) that I’ll pass along:

1. Zack Greinke, feeling better today after missing yesterday’s start with a flu, will throw a bullpen session Friday and pitch Monday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

2. Carl Crawford took 50 swings off a tee today and told reporters he felt fine.

3. Scott Elbert felt fine one day after throwing on flat ground for the first time since elbow surgery in January.

A bunch of noteworthy bullet points:

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Spring training preview: Relief pitchers.

Brandon LeagueToday begins our daily countdown to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on Tuesday with a position-by-position breakdown of the Dodgers’ roster. We begin with the bullpen.

I didn’t include Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano or Ted Lilly on this list, even though one or more of them could wind up pitching out of the ‘pen. Even without them, this is a solid unit on paper with ample depth. The closer situation is fairly clear, but the Dodgers enter the season with more viable options for the ninth inning than they’ve had in recent seasons.

There are a few injury concerns facing this unit, but none are severe. With one exception, the Dodgers’ bullpen should start the season healthy, capable of becoming one of the best in the National League.

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Scott Elbert has arthroscopic elbow surgery, expected to miss Opening Day.

Scott Elbert underwent a left elbow arthroscopy today in Los Angeles, leaving the Dodgers without one of their top left-handed relievers to start spring training.Scott  Elbert He is not expected to be ready by opening day, according to a source.

The 40-minute procedure was performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache after a new area of cartilage damage was discovered and debrided. Elbert, who had a different elbow procedure Sept. 19 that ended his 2012 season, will start his physical therapy in three days and a throwing program in six weeks.

Elbert, 27, went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 43 relief appearances last season. Right-handers hit .170 against him and lefties hit .271 – a strange split for a southpaw. He and J.P. Howell were expected to be the team’s top left-handed relievers.

In a crowded Dodgers bullpen, at least two players’ chances of making the opening day roster just improved.

Left-hander Paco Rodriguez allowed one run in 11 appearances over 6 2/3 innings as a rookie last year, though his control wavered against right-handers in a small sample size (two unintentional walks in 2 2/3 innings). Right-hander Shawn Tolleson had more success against right-handers out of the bullpen as a rookie (.152 batting average) but was atrocious against left-handers (.316). Non-roster invitee Peter Moylan, aiming to re-establish himself after a series of injuries cut short his time in Atlanta, could also grab a spot.

Scott Elbert’s season is over.

Pitcher Scott Elbert underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left elbow at Kerlan Jobe Surgery Center in Los Angeles today, the Dodgers announced. Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed the 30-minute surgery.

The surgery went as planned with a clean out of scar tissue in the back of the elbow. Elbert will begin rehabilitation at Camelback Ranch and can start throwing in 6 to 8 weeks.

Elbert went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA in 43 games (32.2 innings) out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He only pitched in four games after July 25 because of injuries. Interestingly, he had better numbers against right-handers (.170/.259/.255) than left-handers (.271/.342/.386). Maybe next season the 27-year-old can move out of the left-handed specialist role that has defined his major-league career to this point.

Elbert’s contract expires after the season, but he isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2014.

Bullpen about to get a boost.

Not that it needs much help, but the Dodgers’ bullpen is about to get bigger.

Left-hander Scott Elbert, on the disabled list since Aug. 29 with inflammation in his left elbow, is scheduled to throw a simulated game tomorrow. It could be the final tuneup he needs before returning to action.

“If he’s good,” manager Don Mattingly said, “we’ll probably roll with him.”

Randy Choate and Paco Rodriguez are currently the only healthy left-handers in the Dodger bullpen. Choate has appeared in 26 of the Dodgers’ 44 games since he arrived in a trade with Miami, which projects to a 96-game pace over a full season. That’s not grounds for overuse when you’re only facing one or two batters a game, but having another veteran left-hander to complement the rookie Rodriguez will only benefit Choate.

Kenley Jansen, meanwhile, is scheduled to meet with a doctor tomorrow to get “final clearance” to resume practicing with the team. Because he’s been taking prescription blood thinners, Jansen has been unable to take the field –anywhere he could be struck by a batted ball. He could pitch as early as Tuesday in Washington.

The news was bad (again) for left-hander Ted Lilly, whose simulated game Thursday was cancelled. He’s expected to meet with a doctor tonight. It’s unclear what the medical reason was but Mattingly said that it’s “not necessarily a setback.” Lilly hasn’t pitched since May 23.

In their last eight innings dating to Saturday, Dodger relievers have not allowed a run.