03/17/2013 8:50 PM ET
Guerra sent to Minors as Dodgers trim roster
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers began addressing their glut of quality pitchers Sunday by optioning to the Minor Leagues reliever Javy Guerra, who a year ago was the team's closer.
Since that time last year, Guerra was hit in the face with a line drive, underwent knee surgery, strained an oblique, had shoulder surgery and, most recently, missed a week with a mild groin strain. The series of injuries cost him a late berth on Team Mexico for the World Baseball Classic.
Guerra returned to game action Saturday, striking out the only two batters he faced, but was told Sunday he was a victim of numbers.
Despite all of the injuries, Guerra, 27, had a 2.60 ERA in 45 appearances last year and has a 2.46 ERA in two Major League seasons, which included his 21-save season of 2011, when he jumped from Double-A and inherited the job from an injured Jonathan Broxton.
Guerra is the first of what will be a number of difficult bullpen decisions, some of which are being impacted by the surplus of starting pitchers.
"He was behind [physically] and really never caught up and ran out of time," manager Don Mattingly said. "We're going to stretch him out to where he's a National League long man, two to three innings, so he can keep working on his mix of pitches and knowing he'll pitch on a regular day."
The Dodgers also reassigned right-handed pitcher Juan Abreu to Minor League camp.
The Dodgers' bullpen is expected to include closer Brandon League, setup men Kenley Jansen and Ronald Belisario and left-hander J.P. Howell. The final three spots are up for grabs among roster veteran Matt Guerrier; youngsters Paco Rodriguez, Shawn Tolleson and Josh Wall; and non-roster veterans Kevin Gregg, Mark Lowe and Peter Moylan.
And that doesn't count up to three starting pitchers (depending on injuries) dislodged from the rotation from the quartet of Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano.
Ryu impresses; Billingsley, Beckett ailing
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hyun-Jin Ryu's dominant start Sunday was good timing for the Dodgers, who now are dealing with minor ailments for Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett, not to mention the goal of getting Zack Greinke back into a game.
Ryu allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings with six strikeouts. He walked two back-to-back in the third inning when he appeared to struggle with umpire Mike DiMuro's strike zone, then retired the next 11 batters before being removed because of a 90-pitch limit.
That puts him even with Clayton Kershaw at pitch counts, but the rest of the rotation is having trouble keeping up.
Billingsley will miss his next scheduled start Wednesday because he bruised the index finger of his pitching hand while bunting during batting practice. X-rays were negative. It wouldn't be a total shock if Greinke makes that start, assuming he comes out of his Sunday bullpen session with no elbow soreness.
Beckett is still tentatively scheduled to start Monday, but he was sent home early Sunday with the flu for the second day. Chris Capuano should start on Tuesday. Aaron Harang will probably start a Minor League game on Thursday, when Stephen Fife will make the bus ride to Tucson for the Dodgers Green charity game.
Kershaw, who doesn't expect to miss any time after getting struck on the left Achilles by a comebacker Saturday, will likely get an extra day of rest and start Friday.
The Dodgers only hope they all should pitch as well as Ryu did Sunday, when he was facing some of the Brewers for the second consecutive start.
"That was a good test for him and he executed," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "He has the ability to throw any pitch any time, to mix things up. His fastball command was really strong. When he walked the first two hitters [in the third inning], that was a good test, and he pitched his way out of it. It was fun to see. The development of his breaking stuff this spring has been the key to his success."
Perhaps the club was expecting too much from Ryu earlier in camp, when his resistance to throwing bullpen sessions raised a red flag, but his gradual improvement the last three starts strikes of a veteran pitcher knowing what he needs to do to be ready for the regular season.
"Maybe," manager Don Mattingly said of that theory. "He's a confident guy from the beginning. He's easygoing, confident in what he can do. If this is how he does it next spring, we can say we didn't know the guy [this spring]."
Ryu acknowledged that, as a foreigner coming to the Major Leaguers, there were expectations to do well immediately.
"But for me, that's not the priority," he said. "For me, it's getting ready for the season."
Greinke tests elbow with a bullpen session
GLENDALE, Ariz. - Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said he felt good and had no issues after throwing a bullpen session Sunday, his first time off a mound since being shut down with elbow soreness.
Greinke wouldn't say whether he thought he'd be ready for his first regular-season start April 2.
"I felt good, working on stuff, trying to be sharp for the game," Greinke said. "I just want to do what's best for the team. It's not important what day."
Greinke threw all of his pitches in a 38-pitch bullpen session after a five-minute warmup in the outfield. He said he "probably threw a little more" than he expected to.
The session came six days after he received a platelet-rich plasma injection and medication for inflammation in the back of his elbow.
After a handful of throws from behind the mound, Greinke made 20 pitches out of the stretch, then 18 more out of the windup. Afterward, he spent five minutes talking to manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Also attending the session was general manager Ned Colletti, vice president of medical services Stan Conte and a handful of other club officials.
"I'm just trying to get ready," Greinke said. "I don't think about it as a rehab."
Greinke has made just two starts this Spring for a total of five innings. His most recent start was March 1, when he went three innings.
Greinke missed a bullpen session with elbow discomfort on March 3 and missed a start with the flu March 6. He then threw a bullpen session on March 8 without apparent problems, but was scratched from his start this past Monday and was sent for an examination in Los Angeles, where he received the injection.
Because the inflammation arose the day after his previous bullpen session, club officials will wait until seeing how Greinke emerges on Monday before breathing a sigh of relief over their $147 million offseason signing. Greinke didn't sound concerned.
"I could have something, I don't know," Greinke said, referring to Monday. "I'm assuming I'm going to be fine and be on track to do whatever. I don't know for sure."
His first scheduled regular-season start is April 2, and it's unclear if he'll have enough foundational innings logged to make that.
"I'm just doing what's laid out to give everyone their best chance," Greinke said. "We've got other starting pitchers. I just have to be ready."
Greinke has exceeded 200 innings pitched in four of the past five seasons. He missed that mark in 2011 because of a broken rib suffered in a spring pickup basketball game that left him on the shelf throughout April.
Kershaw unconcerned after comebacker scare
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers Opening Day starter Clayton Kershaw said his left Achilles was sore Sunday, one day after being struck by a comebacker, but he doesn't expect to miss a start or any practice time.
Kershaw didn't do conditioning running after his six scoreless innings Saturday against Texas, but he felt well enough after being hit by David Murphy's comebacker to throw 20 more pitches in the bullpen.
Kershaw said the ball caught him at the top of the shoe, which he theorized caught a portion of the blow, along with his tendon. Kershaw said his left leg and foot are the most vulnerable areas of his body for comebackers, because he swings his left leg around on his follow-through and intentionally uses it for kick saves.
Kershaw said he again would skip running Sunday, opting for conditioning in the weight room. Whatever tenderness he felt didn't stop him from his customary morning ping-pong matches in the clubhouse.
Mattingly happy with results from Adrian, Kemp
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Which is the better sign?
Adrian Gonzalez slugging a pair of home runs to the opposite field, or Matt Kemp launching into orbit his first home run of the Spring?
Manager Don Mattingly seemed pretty pleased with both Dodgers and noted that they had taken impressive recent batting practices with new hitting coach Mark McGwire.
Mattingly saw Gonzalez's two homers.
"It means more that he's going the opposite field with carry," said Mattingly, who didn't see much of that from Gonzalez after his acquisition last season. "Today he had his best BP. And Matt's BP has been getting better. I hope things are starting to click and fall into place."
Gonzalez shook off a case of the flu early in the week after returning from the World Baseball Classic and said he continues to work on good habits while breaking bad ones.
"We're trying to get back to a certain feeling up there," he said. "It's coming along slowly but surely."
Overshadowed, perhaps, but Mark Ellis also homered in a 3-for-3 game, raising his spring average to .371.
"I'm starting to feel a lot better," said Ellis. "It's closer to the season and I'm feeling like a baseball player again. My defense is better. It took a while. To me, defense takes just as long, seeing the ball off the bat, getting the range back."
The Dodgers also got a pair of doubles from Andre Ethier and a home run from Brian Cavazos-Galvez, son of former Dodgers pitcher Balvino Galvez.
Dodgers sign quartet of international players
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers continued their quest to re-establish a presence internationally Sunday by announcing four signings, including Dashenko Ricardo, the catcher on Team Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
While Ricardo is the best known, he also has six professional seasons in which he has languished mostly at Class A because of a .229 career batting average. There are suggestions the Dodgers might try to shift him to pitcher, as they did successfully with fellow Curacao native Kenley Jansen, once a light-hitting catcher.
Perhaps of more impact to the organization will be the signings of three young prospects out of the Dominican Republic -- shortstop Dennis Santana, shortstop Carlos Aquino and left-handed pitcher Cesar Romero.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.