03/27/2013 8:24 PM ET
Mattingly sees positives as Cactus season ends
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Don Mattingly and his players evacuated the desert Wednesday, the manager declaring Cactus League 2012 a qualified success.
"We answered questions with Matt [Kemp] and Carl [Crawford]," Mattingly said of his two outfielders coming off surgery. "Carl made it, he's ready. Matt is playing confidently. You don't hear about the shoulder anymore.
"Hanley [Ramirez, out two months with thumb surgery] was a little punch in the gut, but something we can sustain. Zack [Greinke's elbow] scared us, but that can happen with any pitcher. Chad [Billingsley] had the index finger, but we crossed the hurdle with his elbow that it would hold up every five days with no issue all spring. So, a lot of those questions got answered. It was good."
Mattingly even allowed that the emergence of Cuban sensation Yasiel Puig was "a nice little thing we saw." Puig will be on display Thursday in a split-squad game at Rancho Cucamonga, then in Friday and Saturday's home-and-away Freeway Series games with the Angels, before he reports to Double-A Chattanooga after being optioned on Tuesday.
"He's a true real talent and has a chance to be something special if he keeps getting better," Mattingly said.
Among the big leaguers joining Puig at Rancho Cucamonga will be Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Luis Cruz and Jerry Hairston. Hall of Fame manager Tom Lasorda will skipper the club and Stephen Fife will be the starting pitcher.
The rest of the Major League team will be in Anaheim, with Mattingly managing and Hyun-Jin Ryu the starting pitcher.
Kershaw won't talk contract during season
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Clayton Kershaw just shook his head no when asked if there was anything imminent in contract talks with the Dodgers.
He wouldn't even confirm rumors that talks are ongoing.
"I don't want to talk about it," he said.
But he repeated his position that negotiations won't be held during the season once it starts on Monday.
Before Spring Training started, general manager Ned Colletti said preliminary contacts established "mutual interest" in extending Kershaw's current contract, which paid him $8 million last year and $11 million this year.
He also remains under arbitration control by the club for 2014, before he can become a free agent.
Kershaw spoke after tuning up for Monday's Opening Day start against the Giants. He made 56 pitches over three innings against Seattle and was charged with three runs, two on a home run down the left-field line by Michael Morse, who has hit eight this spring.
"I feel fine. I feel great," said Kershaw. "It's not always fun giving up runs the last start. I'd like that one pitch back to Morse. But I feel good and I'm excited for the season to start. Now it's time to go."
The home run came on a slider down the middle.
"Just a bad pitch," Kershaw said.
The Dodgers brought no regulars to the getaway game, perhaps because of the matchup with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, a benchmark for Kershaw in that his seven-year, $175 million contract is tops for a pitcher. Zack Greinke's six-year, $147 million deal is a Dodgers record. Kershaw said he was impressed by Hernandez, as well as the Mariners.
"From last year to this year, I wouldn't step on them," said Kershaw. "The guys in the lineup can do some damage. I wouldn't be surprised at all if they're right in it."
Ryu ready for Major League debut
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hyun-Jin Ryu said he wasn't surprised, nor did he sound overly excited, to learn he will start the second game of the regular season for the Dodgers.
"It's something I expected," said the confident Ryu. "It will hit me more on [Tuesday]. Right now, I'm focused on wrapping up camp."
The best pitcher in Korea signed with the Dodgers for six years and $36 million, showed up for his first Major League Spring Training out of shape, and his manager three weeks ago issued a cautionary statement that nobody has a starting job guaranteed, presumably aimed at Ryu.
But Ryu stuck to his program, resisting club suggestions that he throw bullpen sessions between starts -- he never did in Korea -- and steadily improved his performance to win a spot in a deep Dodgers rotation.
Because the elbow injury to Zack Greinke shuffled the order and a finger bruise put Chad Billingsley behind schedule, Ryu starts Tuesday. Otherwise, he's probably considered the fifth starter behind Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Josh Beckett and Billingsley.
Ryu said he feels a "responsibility, knowing I have to pitch into that spot, even though I might not be No. 2."
He said he will study video of the opposing Giants, although the Internet has provided the capability for Ryu to become familiar with the tendencies of players "like [Buster] Posey and other hitters," he said.
"They are the World Series champions," Ryu said. "But last year's World Series champions. This year will be different. It's exciting to face a top caliber team."
Ryu said he's satisfied with the progress of his breaking pitches, but said the start of the regular season in the past "always has an extra gear for velocity and command."
Lilly among trio in search of new roles
PEORIA, Ariz. -- Despite getting roughed up Wednesday for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings, Ted Lilly said he'd rather pitch out of the Dodgers bullpen than on a Minor League rehab assignment to rebuild arm strength.
Chris Capuano said he'd rather be a starter, even though management seems inclined to put him in the bullpen.
And Aaron Harang still considers himself a starting pitcher, but like his two teammates, is without a role on the team.
After representing 60 percent of the Dodgers' starting rotation when last season started, the trio is sixth, seventh and eighth on a rotation depth chart of five. The season starts Monday and management hasn't worked things out yet.
A trade of Harang or Capuano is one likely option, as both have been scouted by Seattle, Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Lilly will be asked to go to the Minor Leagues, but he can't be forced.
""At this point, asking me today, I'm not really sure," Lilly said about the disabled list. "I'd like to pitch for the Dodgers."
"I don't think we feel like he's ready to start the season, through no fault of his own," manager Don Mattingly said of Lilly, who missed starts with the flu and had another rained out, all while coming off shoulder surgery.
Lilly said his shoulder is fine, but his command isn't. He fell behind in counts against the Mariners on Wednesday, threw strikes and they got hit. He gave up six hits and walked three, his spring ERA climbing to 14.00. Lilly said he hasn't spoken to general manager Ned Colletti about his situation. The Dodgers are concerned that Lilly's shoulder needs more warm-up time than relief duty allows.
"As everybody witnessed, I need to be sharper than I was today," Lilly said. "This game has never been easy for me. I've always had to grind and make adjustments. Don't know why it would change now. For me, it remains the same. Do the job the best I can, prepare the best I can, and if I do that, I can leave knowing I worked hard and prepared hard."
Dodger Stadium Express returns on Friday
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Dodger Stadium Express, a complimentary shuttle service from Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles to the stadium, returns Friday night when the Dodgers host the Angels in the Freeway Series.
This is the fourth consecutive year the service has been offered by LA Metro. But for the first time, a dedicated bus lane on Sunset Boulevard has been established that should speed up the process. Game-day tickets will be honored as payment to ride the service and the shuttle operates 90 minutes before first pitch and 45 minutes after the game.
Friday night's game starts at 7:10 p.m. PT. A press conference announcing the service will be held Thursday at Metro Headquarters.
Starting Friday, fans are encouraged to use transportation alternatives that serve Union Station, and that will connect them to the new Dodger Stadium Express. For specific route and schedule information, fans can visit www.metro.net or call 323-GO-METRO. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.dodgers.com/tickets or by calling 323-DODGERS.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.