Chris Capuano injury: How long will he be out, and will the Dodgers notice?

Chris Capuano

Chris Capuano collided with Jason Marquis and fell down covering first base in the first inning. He wasn’t injured on that play, but stayed in the game and strained his left calf muscle running to cover the bag in the second. (Associated Press photo)

It’s too soon to know how much time Chris Capuano will need to recover from his strained left calf muscle. It’s also too soon to know if the Dodgers will even notice he’s out.

That’s because they won’t need a fifth starter — Zack Greinke‘s old spot — until April 24, manager Don Mattingly said. The Dodgers have off-days Thursday and Monday.

Capuano came up lame covering first base on a ground ball by Yonder Alonso in the second inning of the Dodgers’ 9-2 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday.

“I took two steps over toward first, felt my left calf strain,” he said.

ESPN has the video clip; you can see Capuano start hobbling around the 15-second mark.

“I came in after the inning, taped it up real tight, tried to brace that ankle,” Capuano said. “I felt like I could sit back on it and push of but it was pretty obvious I wasn’t driving off that leg the way I needed to. The ball just wasn’t coming out right. I wanted to stay out there. I knew we needed innings, but I think we made the right decision. It was hurting.”

Capuano said he’ll get an MRI exam on his left calf Thursday.

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Eric Stults vs. Chad Billingsley presents an intriguing Padres-Dodgers pitching matchup.

Chad Billingsley

It wasn’t that long ago that San Diego Padres left-hander Eric Stults started against his former team. On Sept. 4 of last year, Stults limited the Dodgers to seven hits and one run in six innings at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers wound up losing that game 6-3 in 11 innings when John Ely imploded (the first time) in his first major-league game of the season.

Afterward Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he’d seen enough soft-tossing left-handers for a season. “We’re kind of seeing the same guy and not making enough adjustments,” he said. Turns out that the Dodgers weren’t alone in their misery facing Stults, who went 3-1 over his final four starts of last year, including two wins over the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Stults shut out the Mets for five innings to win his only start of 2013. For a guy who was relegated to Japan after being cut by the Dodgers in 2009, it’s a nice little comeback.

Stults will be opposed by Chad Billingsley, who was officially activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game. Interesting to note that both pitchers broke into the majors with the Dodgers in the same year (2006). Billingsley would start 100 games over the next four seasons for the Dodgers. Stults started 24 during that same span before the teams parted ways.

Don’t forget, the game will not be on Prime Ticket tonight but you can still watch it on local cable.

Here are tonight’s full lineups:

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What’s the plan for Aaron Harang? Even the Dodgers’ pitcher isn’t sure.

Aaron HarangAaron Harang tried to remember the last time he regularly pitched out of the bullpen. He reached back and pulled out Oakland, “10 years ago. I was a rookie breaking in. I was the fifth guy. I’d fill in to start.”

Actually, the most relief appearances Harang has made in a single season was two, back in 2010 — Cincinnati, not Oakland. You can forgive the mental lapse. Of his 299 career games, Harang has started all but six. He is not looking forward to number seven.

“It’s not easy when you’re used to a set routine,” he said.

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Dodgers’ starting rotation watch drags into final week.

The Dodgers still have eight starters in camp, and all eight remain on a starter’s plan. Even Ted Lilly.

“We’ve had some conversations with guys, but at this point everyone is working as starters,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters in Glendale this afternoon. “Anything could happen. Until Opening Day we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ve talked about the possibilities of it with guys just so psychologically guys could know where it sits. We’ve tried to prepare for that as much as possible.”

That the Dodgers are in no rush to get a look at Lilly, Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang as relievers is a strong indication that a trade or two (or three) will come soon.
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