04/06/2013 12:13 AM ET
Crawford's Dodgers career off to strong start
By Ken Gurnick and Austin Laymance / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Carl Crawford is off to a fast start in his first season playing for the Dodgers.
The outfielder made a strong impression in the season-opening three-game series against the Giants. Crawford went 5-for-9 (.556) with a double and two runs as the Dodgers leadoff hitter.
Crawford was acquired from the Red Sox via trade in August, but did not play for the Dodgers due to Tommy John surgery on his left elbow.
Was it important for Crawford to make a good first impression on Dodgers fans this week?
"Good starts never hurt," manager Don Mattingly said. "I think when you're in a new city, it's nice to throw some hits up early so people get to see it a little bit. At the end of the day, he's going to be judged on the whole season. But it is nice to come into a new city with high expectations after being injured, and it's nice for him to have a couple good games to start out."
Elbow and wrist injuries limited Crawford to 31 games in 2012 with the Red Sox.
"I feel totally different this year; last year I was hurt." Crawford said after Wednesday's 5-3 loss to the Giants. "I feel much better. My body feels much better."
Billingsley returning on Wednesday in San Diego
LOS ANGELES -- Chad Billingsley had no issues to his injured right index finger during a Minor League rehab start on Thursday, and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Friday that the right-hander will come off the disabled list to start on Wednesday in San Diego.
Billingsley pitched four innings for Class A Rancho Cucamonga, striking out two while allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits, three walks and a hit batter. More important than his pitching line, Billingsley was not bothered by his bruised finger.
"It went well. I accomplished everything I needed to to get ready for my next start," Billingsley said on Friday at Dodger Stadium. "I've got no issues with the finger. I'm anxious to get back out there, compete and win some ballgames."
Billingsley was able to throw his curveball with no issues, something he was unable to do when he first injured his finger.
"I had a better feel with it," said Billingsley, who estimated he threw between 12-15 curveballs. "I threw it for strikes. It was good."
Lilly goes six innings for Rancho Cucamonga
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers lefty Ted Lilly allowed five runs on nine hits, including three homers, in six innings against Lake Elsinore in a rehab start at Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Friday night.
Lilly began the season on the disabled list, unable to compile enough foundational innings in Spring Training because of the flu and a rainout. Lilly is coming off shoulder surgery.
Lilly gave up two homers to Kyle Gaedele and one by Yeison Asencio. He struck out four without a walk.
Lilly is expected to make at least one more rehab start before he's ready to start in the Major Leagues, and then the Dodgers must find room for him. Manager Don Mattingly earlier said Lilly is not a likely candidate for the bullpen, where the Dodgers already have stashed starting pitchers Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang.
Howell impressed by Dodger Stadium crowd
LOS ANGELES -- J.P. Howell made a solid first impression in his Dodgers debut on Wednesday night with two clean innings, and he gave an assist to the sellout Dodger Stadium crowd.
"I've played for Kansas City and Tampa, and the only time I've really been in a stadium this loud was Yankee Stadium, and being the opponent, they're all cheering against me," said Howell. "To have it for me, it gets the adrenaline going and it helps. The crowds here are amazing. I can get used to this."
Howell was signed as a free agent after the Dodgers learned that left-handed reliever Scott Elbert needed a second elbow operation.
Harang adjusting to new role in bullpen
LOS ANGELES -- Aaron Harang, a starter during 11 previous big league seasons, is working to find a new routine to prepare him for his new role in the Dodgers' bullpen. Now that he's out of the rotation, Harang must change when he lifts weights, runs and throws.
"It's tough right now with Aaron," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Friday's series-opener against the Pirates. "He's got to figure out a new program for himself. When to throw is a part of that. He can't just throw at the beginning of the day and go throw a bullpen, because he could be in there that night. He doesn't know when he's going to be in there."
The Dodgers have a surplus of starters and decided to stash Harang in the bullpen to open the season. The right-hander didn't make an appearance in the club's first three games. In 31 starts for the Dodgers in 2012, Harang was 10-10 with a 3.61 ERA.
"It's not a perfect scenario for him, or us, to be honest with you," Mattingly said. "But it's the scenario we're in. And now we have to figure out how to make the best out of it."
Harang expressed concern on Opening Day about his new role. He's since spoken with the organization about his situation.
"I understand where he's coming from, and he understands our situation," Mattingly said. "It doesn't mean he's thrilled about it. He's just frustrated, I think, from the standpoint of the routine. He's trying to figure it out. He's been a starter for a long time. He kind of reestablished himself, and now we've kind of turned it upside down on him."
'Viva Los Dodgers' returns on Sunday
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are continuing their "Viva Los Dodgers" initiative, which celebrates Los Angeles' Latino culture and the legacy of Latin American players past and present with family-friendly events before Sunday home games.
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez will make an appearance on Sunday at the first "Viva Los Dodgers" event, as the organization recognizes the 2013 World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic. Ramirez played for the squad, but tore a ligament in his right thumb during the tournament.
Ramirez said he's itching to get back on the field and will be out of his cast in less than two weeks. The three-time All-Star said he's proud to be a part of the Dodgers tradition.
"It's unbelievable," Ramirez said Friday. "Coming from the Dominican, the Dodgers down there are really big, doing this stuff and helping the community and helping a lot of people down there. For me, to be a part of this team is something that I'm always going to be proud of. My whole family always watches this team from the Dominican."
Sunday's pregame festivities begin at 11:10 a.m. PT and will feature musical entertainment from Yari More y su Orquesta. Dodgers coach Manny Mota will join Ramirez on stage at noon. Mota will sign autographs for fans. Admission is free with a ticket to Sunday's series finale against the Pirates.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter and Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.