Dodgers downplay Zack Greinke’s health concerns.

Zack Greinke said Saturday that he’s been dealing with a physical issue in his elbow for the “last month, month and a half.” But he reported improvement in his most recent start against the Milwaukee Brewers, when he threw six scoreless innings, and is still the scheduled starter for Thursday’s game against the San Diego Padres.

“There’s always something with guys … a little this, a little that,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He said he felt better. He was having some soreness, things like that. You’d have to say that something’s come up medically but nothing that’s on the radar. He’s not on my daily emails of any thing. It’s nothing major at this point.”

There’s still some concern surrounding Greinke, who is 12-8 with a 2.75 earned-run average this season. I didn’t see him throw a bullpen session today and apparently I wasn’t missing something.

Kevin Correia’s Dodgers debut could come tomorrow.

MILWAUKEE — We didn’t bother asking Dan Haren if he was starting tomorrow in Atlanta. His name was on the sheet. There was no reason to expect otherwise.

Besides, Haren earned it. In his most recent start in Anaheim, he gave up three singles, didn’t walk a batter, and only allowed one run in the Dodgers’ 2-1 win over the Angels on Wednesday. His reward: His next turn in the rotation will be pushed back – at least for one day, it seems — by new Dodger Kevin Correia.

“We talked to (Correia) last night,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He seemed excited about being here. As I told him, right now we’ll use him as spot starts, coming out of the bullpen kind of filling Paul (Maholm)’s role, having some length but also giving us some insurance at the starter’s spot.”

When might that spot start come up?

“It might come up tomorrow,” Mattingly said. “That would come up quick. If it would come up tomorrow, hypothetically speaking, during this little stretch of all the games in a row to give our guys a little bit of a breather. Making sure we’re not overtaxing Kersh, Greinke. We know Hyun-Jin’s pitched better with that little extra day.”

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Josh Beckett starts Tuesday, and the immediate future of the Dodgers’ rotation.

Josh Beckett

Associated Press photo

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly confirmed that Josh Beckett will come off the disabled list and start tomorrow’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, “barring anything unforeseen happening today.”

Beckett missed only one start after being placed on the disabled list July 8. Paul Maholm stepped in and threw six shutout innings against the San Diego Padres on July 12.

The Dodgers will need to make a corresponding roster move when Beckett is activated from the DL. The most likely candidate to come off the roster is left-hander Paco Rodriguez, if only because he can be optioned to Triple-A and the Dodgers will still have two left-handed pitchers in the bullpen: Maholm and J.P. Howell.

The Dodgers have days off on Thursday and Monday. Will Mattingly reshuffle the rotation?

Dan Haren has lost three straight starts while posting a 9.64 earned-run average. By skipping his next turn, aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke would each pitch this weekend against the San Francisco Giants and next week against the Atlanta Braves.

“It’s not something we’re willing to talk about at this point,” Mattingly said. “We know who’s going to pitch these next three games. From there, we start having some options. We want to make sure everybody knows where they’re going to be so their work schedule goes along with that.”

Dodgers’ quartet sees mixed results in All-Star game.

Dee Gordon Derek Jeter

Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon meets with New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter at Target Field in Minneapolis. (Associated Press photo)

Dee Gordon, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke could be proud of the way they performed against the American League’s best Tuesday in Minneapolis.

Yasiel Puig‘s memory of his first All-Star Game might not be as sweet.

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Daily Distractions: After a long dry spell, Dodgers catchers are starting to hit.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz is batting .108 since being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

A.J. Ellis won’t be catching Clayton Kershaw‘s rehabilitation start Friday in Rancho Cucamonga.

The fact that this was even a possibility, 15 days after the catcher had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, is a bit mind-boggling. Ellis has been taking batting practice regularly, caught Kershaw’s bullpen session Tuesday, and is running on an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill — the same one that got Matt Kemp in shape during spring training.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that the initial 4-6 week timetable is still in play for Ellis, but that could change soon enough.

In the meantime, a couple trends have emerged. Drew Butera has caught three of Zack Greinke‘s last four starts. The term “personal catcher” hasn’t entered the discussion yet, but the two have had high praise for each other and Mattingly might choose to keep them paired together, even after Ellis returns.

Tim Federowicz has caught 10 games to Butera’s six since Ellis went down, and has just four hits in 37 at-bats. Two of those hits have come since Paul Goldschmidt whacked him in the left hand over the weekend.

“Each day is getting better,” Federowicz said Wednesday. “Right now I’m really focused on my defense. Offense will come. I’m not worried about it.”

Can fans be so patient?

In spite of the fact that the two healthy catchers have a modest three-game hitting streak, Federowicz and Butera are still batting a combined .145 (8 for 55) since Ellis had his surgery. For his part, Ellis was batting just .167 (4 for 24) before going on the DL.

The Dodgers might have bigger problems than this one, so it’s flown a bit under the radar. Just don’t expect to see any catchers batting higher than eighth unless one, at last, catches fire.

Some bullet points for a World Lab Animal Day:
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Daily Distractions: Philadelphia Phillies offer a visit from the Dodgers’ past and hypothetical present.

Tony Gwynn Jr.

Tony Gwynn Jr. batted .245 in 239 games with the Dodgers from 2011-12. (Getty Images)

When the Dodgers host the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-game series this week, the past and the hypothetical present converge.

Tony Gwynn Jr. played 239 games for the Dodgers from 2011-12. By one metric, he was the team’s best defensive outfielder during that time. Gwynn was a serviceable hitter until somewhere around June 2012; he batted .180 after June 1 of that year. Gwynn gave way to Shane Victorino, then Carl Crawford, and wound up spending all of 2013 in Triple-A.

Gwynn signed with Philadelphia last November (for a modest $900,000) and made the Phillies’ Opening Day roster. Gwynn doesn’t start against left-handed pitchers, so we might not see him in the series until Zack Greinke starts Wednesday. The platoon seems to be working; Gwynn is batting .292 this season.
The success might also stem from his jersey number. After going his own way since he broke into the majors in 2006, Gwynn is wearing his father’s number 19 for the first time in his career.

So about that “hypothetical present.”

The Dodgers were rumored to be interested in their opponent today, Cliff Lee, at the 2012 trade deadline. They traded for Joe Blanton instead and missed the playoffs. Last year Lee went 14-8 with a 2.87 ERA and made the National League All-Star team. Sounds like a missed opportunity.

Then again, given the Phillies’ reluctance to trade any of their high-priced, high-risk veterans (Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley), it’s no surprise that Lee is still in Philadelphia. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has shown no intention of rebuilding his aging roster. Lee might be no less untouchable today than he was in the summer of 2012. His team, meanwhile, is 8-10 in the young season.

Lee, 35, is owed a total of $50 million between this year and next. The Dodgers opted to put that money toward signing Greinke instead and dealt their expendable prospects to Boston for Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto.

To think: Maybe if Lee became a Dodger, the Punto Era might never have existed.

Hypotheticals are fun.

Some bullet points for a Grounation Day:
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San Diego Padres announce starting assignments for Dodgers’ first series in North America.

San Diego Padres manager Bud Black told reporters in Peoria, Arizona on Saturday that Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross will start in that order against the Dodgers for their season-opening series against the Dodgers at Petco Park.

Cashner will start Opening Day on Sunday, March 30, a game that will be televised nationally on ESPN. Kennedy takes the ball on Tuesday, April 1 and Ross on Wednesday, April 2.

Also Saturday, the Padres learned that starter Josh Johnson will miss at least four weeks with a strained flexor muscle. Johnson wasn’t expected to start in the first series against the Dodgers.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said yesterday that Zack Greinke and Dan Haren will start two of the three Freeway Series games against the Angels, March 27-29. That rules both pitchers out for the March 30 and April 1 starts in San Diego. Expect Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu to get those assignments, with Josh Beckett and Paul Maholm serving as outside possibilities.

Arizona Diamondbacks 9, Dodgers 2: D-Backs’ ‘B’ team batters Dodgers.

The sticker shock of the quality of the Arizona Diamondbacks’ lineup quickly wore off, then reversed course.

With a lineup slim on quality major-league talent — Didi Gregorius batted third and Mike Jacobs, who’s played 20 major-league games since 2009, hit cleanup — the Diamondbacks scored nine runs in six innings en route to a win in their last meeting with the Dodgers before Opening Day.

Zack Greinke allowed three runs, Zach Lee allowed four (three were earned) and Chris Perez allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning out of the bullpen. J.P. Howell, Chris Withrow, Kenley Jansen and minor-leaguer Romulo Sanchez combined to throw 3 ⅔ scoreless innings of relief.

A two-run double by Andre Ethier off Arizona right-hander Mike Lee accounted for the Dodgers’ scoring.

Dodgers’ Zack Greinke throws two innings, ‘still a ways to go’ before he’s ready for a real game.

Zack GreinkeZack Greinke‘s right calf is not at full strength and his arm is in its typical early-spring shape. That is, poor.

His honesty is in midseason form, and the 30-year-old pitcher reserved the most brutal of his honesty Wednesday for simulated games. He doesn’t like them.

“Those are awful,” Greinke said. “It’s not the same. You make a mistake, they miss those. You make a mistake in the game, they hit those harder.”
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