Dodgers rotation scramble: Josh Beckett scratched, Chad Billingsley bruised, Zack Greinke improving.

Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett was scratched from his scheduled start Tuesday with the flu. Several Dodgers have been afflicted with the bug (Ted Lilly, Zack Greinke, Peter Moylan, Ramon Castro, Adrian Gonzalez) and Beckett’s doesn’t seem to be too bad. He was scheduled to throw on a back field Monday morning.

(Update: Beckett indeed threw a simulated game on the back field and reportedly passed the test with flying colors.)

In his place, Josh Wall will start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers will likely use a combination of relievers, including some minor-leaguers, to fill out the innings behind Wall, who hasn’t pitched more than 1 ⅔ innings in a Cactus League game this spring.

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Dodgers will start Stephen Fife in place of Zack Greinke against Mexico.

The Dodgers scratched Zack Greinke from his scheduled start against Team Mexico on Wednesday with a cold. Stephen Fife, who was originally scheduled to throw in relief in Goodyear against the Cleveland Indians, will instead start the exhibition game at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

Manager Don Mattingly said in his pregame discussion that he was hoping Greinke’s illness was only a cold, but a flu has been going around the room. Pitcher Ted Lilly just returned after missing two days with a flu. Pitcher Paco Rodriguez caught it and didn’t report today. Zack Greinke reported but was apparently deemed not healthy enough to start.

 

Dodgers 10, Angels 8: Postgame thoughts.

Don Mattingly dropped a revealing opinion, perhaps unexpectedly, in his postgame chat today.

It appeared that, an hour earlier, Ted Lilly had done an OK job in two innings out of the bullpen in his first appearance of spring training. Keep in mind that Lilly hadn’t pitched in a competitive game since Aug. 16 of last year. The veteran lefty got Erick Aybar to fly out, got rocked by Howie Kendrick (who finished 3-for-3 with a single, double and home run) for a longball, then retired the next four Angel batters he faced. Day over.

“Teddy, he seems a lot more like Aaron (Harang) to me, from my point of view,” Mattingly said. “Taking longer to get loose, taking longer to warm up, all that kind of stuff.”

In other words, not a good bullpen candidate.

That would seem to make Chris Capuano, by default, the Dodgers’ preferred choice to move from the rotation to the bullpen at this point in time. This is a point in time when eight starters are healthy, so take that with a grain of salt. Things can change in the next four weeks.

At the very least Mattingly’s opinion offers a framework for what the Dodgers might be thinking — stash Capuano in the bullpen as a sixth starter, and if Billingsley ends up needing Tommy John surgery (or another starter goes down in spring), insert either Lilly or Harang into the fifth starter’s slot. Otherwise, try to move one or both pitchers. That would agree with what I’ve heard from knowledgeable people outside the organization; people inside the organization have no reason to tip their hand pre-flop.

Lilly had to feel good about his performance regardless of how the manager reacted to it. It’s been a long time coming.
Some more notes:

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Positive reports so far on Dodgers pitchers Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Javy Guerra.

Chad Billingsley

Chad Billingsley gave an upbeat self-diagnosis on his right elbow when spring training began. One week later, he looks like the same pitcher, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said Tuesday.

“Chad, the ball’s coming out fine,” Honeycutt said. “He hasn’t missed any time other than just having a little bit of soreness in the calf from our running program. Arm-wise, it’s been very impressive.”

Billingsley hasn’t been limited in his throwing since spring began. Only two Dodgers pitchers have: Javy Guerra and Ted Lilly. Guerra had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder November 2. Lilly had the same procedure on his left shoulder Sept. 21.

“Ted, even though we’ve taken a little more conservative approach with his times on the mound,” Honeycutt said, “giving him two days in between — him and Javy Guerra — each time he’s been on the mound he’s been very good. Very solid.”

Maybe the biggest injury news is this: Kenley Jansen has been bothered by an ingrown toenail. Other than Scott Elbert, who had elbow surgery on Jan. 23 and is expected to miss opening day, the entire pitching staff is healthy one week into spring training. Knock on wood.

Dodgers pitcher Aaron Harang is “planning on starting.”

Aaron Harang

In a typical off-season, Aaron Harang said he’ll wait until mid-November to train for the upcoming season. After last season, he moved the plan up a month.

“This year I just decided to take some time to let my body recover — I didn’t go crazy. I did a lot of circuit-based training so it’s not as hard on the body.”

In circuit training, the participant moves from station to station, exercise to exercise, in a rapid fashion.

“I focused on trying to increase my strength from what I had in the past,” Harang said.

His training, combined with a new diet, allowed Harang to come into camp looking slimmer than he finished last season. He wouldn’t say how much weight he lost, but 10 pounds would be a conservative estimate.

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Some odds and ends from Dodgers spring training.

Some odds and ends from Thursday at Camelback Ranch, the final day before the Dodgers’ position players are expected to report to spring training.
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Ted Lilly would rather relieve for the Dodgers than start somewhere else.

Ted  LillyIf Don Mattingly decides to resolve his eight-starter dilemma by asking for volunteers to move to the bullpen, Ted Lilly might be the first to raise his hand.

“I want to be a part of what’s going on here first and foremost,” Lilly said Tuesday, when the Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers reported to Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona. “I feel like I’m capable of being a successful starter. … The objective’s still the same: Get the hitter out. You make pitches, pitch well, and it kind of defines your role.

“I would prefer [pitching out of the bullpen here] other than go somewhere else and start, yes, but I would like to start.”

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Chad Billingsley is healthy and ready to join the Dodgers’ rotation.

Chad BillingsleyChad Billingsley has every reason to be optimistic.

After he was diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last September, his next throw was limited to 50 mph on a closely monitored radar gun. Within months, gradually increasing his velocity and his number of throws, Billingsley was delivering pitches at 90 mph.

“You have these certain points where we’re going to test the ligament, testing our arm,” he said. “Each time I passed with flying colors.”

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Dodgers spring training preview: Starting pitchers.

Hyun-Jin RyuForget having the best 1-2 starting combination in baseball. Ned Colletti clearly intended to put together the majors’ best 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 staff this winter.

Mission accomplished.

When the Dodgers pitchers and catchers report to camp Tuesday, they present a puzzling situation that only time can solve. Chad Billingsley hopes time can heal the torn ligament in his elbow, not season-ending Tommy John surgery. Ted Lilly hopes he can pitch like a legitimate fifth starter, having not pitched in the majors since last May because of injuries. He, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang may have to hope that Colletti can find a desirable destination for their talents outside of L.A.

If healthy, it’s hard to imagine this group staying together. Otherwise, the Dodgers are left with the first eight-man rotation in major-league history, and wouldn’t that be an interesting outcome to what promises to be an interesting camp.

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