03/16/2013 2:20 AM ET
Punto returns after Classic experience with Italy
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Infielder Nick Punto returned to the Dodgers on Friday from his World Baseball Classic adventure with underdog Team Italy, encouraging Major League Baseball to take the tournament to an even higher level.
"I hope we can get owners to buy in, so we can put the best team out there," said Punto, who also participated in the two previous Classics. "It's a pride thing for our country, like you want to be an Olympic gold medalist. I'm speaking from an emotional standpoint. We need to get the Verlanders and Kershaws and the horses out there."
The timing of the tournament still places a limitation on the pitchers that are available. Punto said he spoke to Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, about the possibility of having pitchers report to Spring Training by mid-January or early February to enable their participation, "because it means that much."
Italy pulled off upsets of Mexico and Canada to advance into the second round before being eliminated with one-run losses to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
"We didn't feel like we were underdogs," said Punto. "Obviously, on paper, match us up and we can't compete. I get it. But it's baseball, so you throw strikes and make the plays and any team can beat any team."
Manager Don Mattingly even predicted that Punto would be the first of his players to return to Spring Training.
"The skipper was wrong," Punto said.
"This is definitely an experience I would recommend to anybody who gets the opportunity. It's great for this time of year, to get in real game action with an intensity you don't get in Spring Training exhibitions. I believe it really helps prepare for the regular season."
Punto said the improvements from previous Classics are noticeable.
"Everything from the crowds to the fan experience to the organization," he said. "It keeps getting better. All the little things that come with baseball were on point."
Sellers scratched with ankle sprain
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers infielder Justin Sellers was scratched from the starting lineup of Friday night's 8-1 win over the Royals with an ankle sprain he sustained in Thursday's morning workout, even though he was able to play in Thursday afternoon's game.
In the morning, Ted Lilly returned from the flu and played catch. Lilly, who has already missed a start and had another abbreviated by rain, still intends to start on Sunday.
Carl Crawford took six at-bats in a Minor League game and played catch for the second consecutive day as he rebounds from a post-Tommy John elbow surgery setback. The fact he was able to throw on consecutive days was considered a major hurdle cleared.
In the afternoon, starter Aaron Harang was knocked around by the Padres for four earned runs in four innings, his ERA reaching 10.00. Harang said he felt fine, but found himself focusing so much on holding runners close to the base that he lost his command pitching out of the stretch.
"Trying to do too much," Harang said.
Mattingly in awe of Puig's continued tear
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers' Cuban sensation, put on his most dazzling display yet on Friday night, leaving manager Don Mattingly empty for a comparison.
"I don't know if I've seen anybody do something like this," Mattingly said after Puig went 3-for-3 with a homer, stolen base, three runs scored and two RBIs, raising his spring average to .459 in an 8-1 win over the Royals. "You don't see this kind of package, a Bo Jackson-type package."
Puig's night was so impressive it overshadowed a 4-for-4 effort from Juan Uribe, who finally appears to be getting his game back together.
Puig doesn't seem to lack confidence or courage, but he said he's a little surprised by his success.
"I didn't think I would do this well," he said. "That's why I went to Puerto Rico [Winter League] and I've worked hard."
When a writer jokingly asked Mattingly how Puig would be introduced Opening Day -- Mattingly said on Thursday he expected Puig to be in the Minor Leagues -- the manager wasn't arguing.
"Bring him in by helicopter," he said. "He can parachute in, with Cuban and American flags on both sides. Scary is right. He was amazing tonight."
Puig did it with more than the bat. He cut off a ball in the gap to hold Willy Taveras to a single. He hustled out of the box to beat right fielder Jeff Francoeur's throw after stinging the ball so hard on a bounce that Francoeur tried to throw him out at first. Puig also hustled home from third base when a ball got away.
"That's just instinctual," Mattingly said. "Seeing a ball get away, you can't wait for a coach to tell you to do that."
With Matt Kemp in center field and Andre Ethier in right, the only possible spot for Puig would be left field, and that's only if Carl Crawford's elbow isn't ready. Crawford has resumed throwing after sustaining a post-surgery setback, and he's optimistic he will be ready for Opening Day.
"I'm not worried about that," said the 22-year-old Puig, who has only 95 professional at-bats. "Wherever I go, I can't do nothing about that. I play hard no matter what."
Tolleson hit on elbow by liner, escapes injury
PEORIA, Az. -- Dodgers reliever Shawn Tolleson was hit on the side of his pitching elbow by a line drive in Friday's game against the Padres but apparently escaped serious injury.
Tolleson was examined by trainer Sue Falsone and apparently sustained only a bruise when struck by opposing pitcher Anthony Bass' liner.
"It might bruise up but nothing serious," said Tolleson. "As long as it continues to feel fine I'll just ice it."
Coincidentally, the last time Tolleson was on the mound in Peoria he also left the game injured. That was March 5, when he felt a twinge in his left knee delivering a pitch. He also escaped that with no structural damage and was back on the mound in two days.
Tolleson also found it odd that this injury came off the bat of a pitcher.
"I know. That makes it worse," he said. "And the pitch right before that went right by his face. It slipped, but props for him for getting me back."
Dodgers like look of Hanley's Classic swing
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hanley Ramirez's two home runs in the World Baseball Classic haven't concerned Dodgers manager Don Mattingly that his starting shortstop has fallen back into a big-swing mentality.
Ramirez is only 3-for-15 for the Dominican Republic, but has only two strikeouts with five walks and a .981 OPS.
"I've only seen a couple at-bats, but he's got a sacrifice fly and three walks in another game," said Mattingly. "That tells me he's doing what he talked about, getting strikes. When we saw him here, he seemed really good. He scalded the ball. The home runs don't bother me. The fact that he's walking tells me his approach is staying solid. I saw one at-bat, and his leg kick was actually abbreviated."
Mattingly said Dodgers scout Patrick Guerrero told him Ramirez continues to take ground balls at shortstop, even though he hasn't been playing the position in the Classic.
Jobe to be honored at Hall of Fame weekend
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Legendary orthopedist Dr. Frank Jobe will be honored for his impact on baseball culture during Hall of Fame Weekend in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Saturday, July 27.
Jobe, who in his role as the longtime Dodgers physician developed the Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery that has prolonged the careers of hundreds of players, is currently a special advisor to the chairman of the Dodgers.
"The ground-breaking work of Dr. Frank Jobe to conceptualize, develop, refine and make mainstream Tommy John surgery, a complex elbow procedure that has furthered the careers of hundreds of ballplayers, is a testament to the positive role of medicine in our game's growth," said Jeff Idelson, president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
In addition to honoring Dr. Jobe, the Hall of Fame will also pay tribute to Legendary Pictures founder and CEO Thomas Tull and his soon-to-be-released feature film, "42", which documents and pays homage to Hall of Famer and civil rights pioneer Jackie Robinson.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.