GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Aaron Harang looked ready for the season to open while limiting the White Sox to one run in six innings on Thursday.
"I felt really good today," said the Dodgers' No. 4 starter, who trimmed his spring ERA to 3.15. "I had a little trouble locating in the fifth inning and my pitch count got up [to 104]. Other than that, I felt good controlling the strike zone and keeping hitters off balance."
Harang said he will probably cut back to 85 pitches in his final spring start in five days, but added that his goal during the season is to pitch complete games. To that end, he revealed one of his superstitions.
"I put nine pieces of gum in my pocket before each game, I chew one per inning, and I'm not happy when there are any pieces left in the pocket," said Harang.
Catcher A.J. Ellis has been impressed.
"The guy's a competitor," said Ellis, who had an RBI single and is batting .297. "He's crafty, but he knows when to dial it up and get big outs. He always has a little more stuff in the tank for a big moment when he needs a strikeout. Early in the count he's inducing contact, but with two strikes, he knows how to put guys away.
"It's fun to catch him and [fellow free-agent signing Chris Capuano]. They're really professional and they'll eat a lot of innings and keep us in games."
Decision on Lilly's status expected Friday
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly said his stiff neck improved enough to throw a bullpen session Thursday, but team trainers put it off one more day, when the club will decide whether Lilly opens the season on the active roster or disabled list.
Lilly hasn't pitched since March 21 after a flare-up of a neck issue he has had for years and that forced him out of a game last August. Manager Don Mattingly said the club will determine by Friday whether it needs to adjust the work schedule if Lilly won't make his first scheduled regular-season start in San Diego on April 7.
Mattingly said the backup plan is to move fifth starter Chris Capuano into Lilly's third spot and replace Lilly on the roster with a reliever, most likely Josh Lindblom, who could be optioned to the Minor Leagues when Lilly returns. Prior to the Lilly injury, Capuano was expected to be skipped the first time through the rotation because of a day off five days into the season.
"We want Ted healthy and feeling good," Mattingly said. "We need to get him stretched out and have him bounce back from a start. He's missed time and that's put him behind. He's going to need to be where we need him to be. We have to weigh the risks and rewards."
Lilly would probably pitch in one or two simulated games with the Major League club rather than stay in Arizona to pitch in extended Spring Training games, Mattingly said.
The manager also said that reliever Matt Guerrier came out of a Minor League game Wednesday healthy and has been removed from the club's injury list after missing time with a sore lower back.
Infielder Adam Kennedy continues to progress from a mild groin strain, but Mattingly said he hasn't been cleared to run as a precautionary measure.
Bard, Sullivan released by Dodgers
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers trimmed their roster after Thursday's 3-1 loss to the White Sox, releasing catcher Josh Bard and outfielder Cory Sullivan, both in camp as non-roster invitees.
The 29-year-old Bard, with eight years of Major League service, was essentially insurance should anything happen to starter A.J. Ellis and backup Matt Treanor and had an out in his contract. Tim Federowicz will start the season as the starting catcher at Triple-A.
The 32-year-old Sullivan, with four years of Major League service, was similarly insurance should anything happen to outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier or Juan Rivera.
Both players were considered long shots to win the last position-player spot, which is down to infielders Josh Fields, Justin Sellers and Luis Cruz, plus outfielders Matt Angle and Trent Oeltjen.
Fields is considered a slim favorite over Sellers at this point, while Oeltjen is out of options.
Kemp unfazed by number of strikeouts
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Worried about Matt Kemp's strikeouts?
"I'm not worried at all," said Kemp, who struck out all four at-bats Thursday. "Just a bad day today. When the season starts, I'll be locked in. I'm feeling good, actually. Got my legs solid and I'm not worried at all."
Not even with 21 strikeouts and only one walk in 53 plate appearances? Not even manager Don Mattingly?
"Oh, a little bit," conceded Mattingly. "You don't want a guy swinging and missing all the time. It would concern me a lot more if Matt didn't work and was half-hearted. But when he's struggling, he's asked for more at-bats. It is part of what Matt does. I'd be a lot more concerned if I didn't feel there was a sense of urgency for him by the time it's Opening Day. So, yes and no."
Fields may have slight edge for bench spot
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Josh Fields started in left field Thursday, appearing to be the lukewarm favorite to win the final roster spot on the Dodgers.
A corner infielder who primarily plays third base, the Dodgers are considering Fields to be the right-handed bat off the bench who can back up at third base. Infielders Justin Sellers and Luiz Cruz are also in the mix.
The Dodgers, and especially manager Don Mattingly, had hoped that last spot would go to Jerry Sands, but he struggled at the plate and played himself into a Minor League demotion to get his swing sorted out.
Fields played five innings in left Thursday and Cruz played four innings as Mattingly wanted to see if both can handle the position. Cruz has more experience there from time in the Mexican League.
"I really don't feel we've totally made that decision yet, there have been so many moving parts," said Mattingly.
Fields is batting .300, Sellers .333 and Cruz .259.
It's possible that the decision could be put off until the end of the Freeway Series against the Angels next week.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.