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.

‘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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A’s 3, Dodgers 3. Update.

The Dodgers and A’s were tied at 3 apiece after the top of the ninth inning at Phoenix Municipal Stadium on Wednesday, when everyone agreed to go home. [box score]

“Four veteran umpires out there,” manager Don Mattingly quipped after the Dodgers “moved” (to borrow a common hockey phrase) to 1-1-1.

Most of the Dodgers’ starting position players were given the day off, but it was the first live-game action for starting pitcher Aaron Harang and relievers Kenley Jansen, Scott Elbert and Javy Guerra, all of whom are expected to play important roles out of the bullpen this season.

Harang had an awful four-batter stretch in the first inning, allowing two doubles, two singles and two earned runs –all with two outs. Otherwise he was perfect, but left with the Dodgers trailing 2-0.

“That’s why we throw 5 or 6 starts throughout the spring,” said Harang. The left-hander had been dealing with foot soreness earlier in the spring but he said that was not an issue today.

Jansen, Elbert and Guerra all threw scoreless innings, though it was a bit of a struggle for Elbert and Guerra.

Elbert allowed a walk and a single with two outs in his lone inning, the sixth, then struck out the A’s Cedric Hunter with runners on first and third. Guerra allowed a pair of walks in the seventh but was bailed out by a double play when he struck out Josh Reddick, and Eric Sogard was caught stealing third base, to end the inning.

Cory Sullivan, getting his first Cactus League start in left field, went 3-for-4. The rest of the Dodgers lineup went 1 for 25.

A few more notes:
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Biggest spring competitions? Mattingly identifies two.

Don Mattingly was asked a fairly straightforward question today: What are the most important competitions in spring training? He identified two.

“The biggest thing we look at for us is, is there going to be a left-hander that pops up? Maybe there’s two. See what happens with some of the older guys out in the bullpen. See if anybody emerges out there. On the infield, position players, those are guys we want to see – (Alex) Castellanos, (Scott) Van Slyke … Matt Angle – basically seeing some guys who may end up fitting with us by the time the year’s over if we have an injury here or an injury there.”

Scott Elbert pitched in 47 games last season out of the bullpen but the two other incumbent lefty relievers, Hong-Chih Kuo and Dana Eveland, have moved on. The other left-handers in camp (other than starters Clayton Kershaw, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano) are John Grabow, Scott Rice, Wilfredo Ledezma, Matt Chico, Alberto Castillo and Michael Antonini.

Rice, Chico, Grabow and Castillo are non-roster invitees. Ledezma, a nine-year veteran, pitched in five games out of the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen last year but spent most of the season in Triple-A. Rice, a Simi Valley native and Royal High grad, has 12 years of minor league experience but has never cracked the big leagues. Chico, Grabow and Castillo all have some major-league experience, while Antonini has five years of minor-league service, all as a starter, including last season with Double-A Chattanooga.
The starting infield positions are basically set: Juan Uribe at third base, Dee Gordon at shortstop, Mark Ellis at second base and James Loney at first. Adam Kennedy and Jerry Hairston Jr. are first in line as backups.

In other words, the opening-day roster is overwhelmingly set.