03/24/2013 8:56 PM ET
Beckett rusty in return to Cactus League play
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- In his first actual Cactus League start in almost two weeks, Josh Beckett had his worst outing of the spring on Sunday.
He was tagged by the A's for seven runs in four innings, including homers by Jed Lowrie and Derek Norris. Beckett pitched a simulated game six days earlier, but his previous exhibition outing was March 12. He has 13 1/3 innings this spring, compared to 25 for Clayton Kershaw.
Beckett said he "felt really good" rebounding from a serious case of the flu, but "I didn't have an extra gear. I don't know if it was the antibiotics, but you have days like that during the season and you have to adjust." Beckett will have a final Freeway Series tuneup on Friday night against the Angels before taking the ball on April 3 against the Giants.
"It was location. I got behind," said Beckett. "The balls that were home runs, that's what they're supposed to do with those. In batting practice, that's where they throw them. The hitters let you know."
Manager Don Mattingly said Beckett couldn't throw a curveball for a strike on Sunday, and his fastball is no longer fast enough to get away without a slower secondary pitch.
"He usually can flip it in there any time he wants," said Mattingly. "That's what [Hyun-Jin] Ryu does, changes speeds and yo-yos."
Crawford encouraged by throws, homer
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Carl Crawford slugged his first homer as a member of the Dodgers on Sunday and, more important, finally made some throws from left field with his rebuilt elbow.
"Every time I get to do something, it's a step in the right direction," said Crawford, who will be ready for Opening Day barring a setback.
Crawford made three throws, all on target to cutoff men, and all with decent zip. And on one, when the A's had runners racing around the bases, Crawford thought better than to try to put a little extra on it.
"The last one I caught myself before I could throw it hard," he said. "I just have to remember what we've talked about."
That pleased manager Don Mattingly just as much as the home run.
"There could have been a play, but he knew better and took care of himself," said Mattingly. "If you didn't know anything, it looked pretty normal. I caught him before he took relays (last week) and the ball had carry on it. I knew that day he was going to be fine."
Crawford went 2-for-3 with two runs scored and raised his Cactus League average to .333. Andre Ethier also hit his first home run of the Spring.
"The home run was nice," said Crawford. "It was good to actually do that in the spring and get a feel for it."
Phenom Puig finally goes hitless on Sunday
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- What's wrong with Yasiel Puig?
The Cuban wunderkind, who had 10 hits in 11 at-bats prior to Sunday's game with the A's, went 0-for-2 with a pair of fly balls to center field in relief of right fielder Andre Ethier.
The hitless day trimmed 20 points off his Cactus League batting average, which now stands at .527. The last time Puig made two outs in a game was Mar. 16 against the Rangers.
Gregg still alive in hunt for spot in Dodgers' bullpen
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- The Dodgers released non-roster reliever Mark Lowe on Sunday, while non-roster reliever Kevin Gregg threw another scoreless inning as he continued his longshot chase of a bullpen job.
Their contrasting plights illustrate that not all non-roster conditions are the same. Lowe, because he spent all of last year with Texas, was eligible for a $100,000 bonus if the Dodgers sent him to the Minor Leagues, but also negotiated an opt-out clause in his contract if he wasn't guaranteed a Major League job and salary by Mar. 26.
Gregg, despite having more service time than Lowe, was released by Baltimore last September and wasn't subject to the same free-agent benefits, nor did he have an opt-out, according to club officials. He'll earn $1.75 million, only if he's in the Major Leagues. In the Minors, it's $15,000 a month.
Gregg, a former closer with more career saves (144) than everyone else in camp combined, shouldn't need to worry about being sent to the Minor Leagues based on the way he's pitched -- one earned run in nine innings over eight outings.
But the Dodgers pitching staff is overflowing. There are four relievers guaranteed roles -- Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell. There are three extra starting pitchers -- Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly -- that the club is considering parking in the bullpen. Veteran Matt Guerrier has one more year of guaranteed salary, and youngsters like Paco Rodriguez and Josh Wall are knocking on the door thanks to big spring performances -- each tossed a scoreless inning on Sunday.
And then there's Gregg, who had his mechanics tweaked over the winter by his Corvallis (Ore.) High School coach Eric Daisy, who suggested Gregg straighten up and widen his stance on the mound after viewing old video. Now Gregg has regained his form, and hopes the Dodgers take advantage of it.
"I'm back to where I was a couple years ago," Gregg said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.