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04/17/2013 3:36 AM ET

Crawford cleared to throw without restraint

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford continues to build arm strength following offseason Tommy John Surgery, enough for Dodgers trainers to give him the green light to bypass his cutoff man and throw to the bag when the situation calls for it.

"I'm glad to hear that, actually, because I think as much as anything, he's been throwing the ball pretty good," manager Don Mattingly said before Tuesday's game against the Padres. "I just don't think he's been feeling like he should be letting it go. So when the trainers tell him it's OK, I think it makes you feel better as a player. You can turn it loose."

That's good news for the Dodgers, as opponents have tested Crawford's surgically repaired left elbow in recent games.

On Sunday in Arizona, A.J. Pollack stretched a double in the ninth inning and later scored to win the game. On Monday, Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso stretched a ground ball to left field into a double in the fifth inning. Crawford fielded the ball after it deflected off third baseman Luis Cruz's glove and nearly threw out Alonso, but his throw was not on target.

"Carl was over in left-center on that play, and he went a long way to get to that quick and make a play," Mattingly said. "If that ball doesn't hit Cruz's glove to slow it down, I don't think he gets to second on that play. If the throw is on line, he's out."

Crawford has been a catalyst at the top of the order, hitting .396 over 13 games with a .442 on-base percentage and a team-high 12 runs.

"He's been a really good surprise for us," Mattingly said. "He's showing us what he can do, and giving us what we need. Part of our issues last year was the first couple guys in the order were not getting on, and that's been pretty good so far this year."

About the only thing Crawford has done wrong recently was wearing two different colored spikes on Monday, one white and one blue. The mismatched shoes commemorated Jackie Robinson Day, with Robinson's No. 42 stitched on the back, but Major League Baseball informed Crawford's agent that the outfielder should not mismatch his footwear in the future.

Dodgers' Howell deems Lilly ready to return

LOS ANGELES -- If and when the Dodgers need a replacement for the injured Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly is ready, assistant pitching coach Ken Howell said Tuesday night.

Howell accompanied Lilly earlier Tuesday for his third Minor League rehab start, where the lefty made 81 pitches in five innings for Class A Rancho Cucamonga, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits while striking out five with a walk.

Howell said Lilly showed considerable improvement from his two previous rehab starts.

"He looked tonight like a Major League pitcher," said Howell. "He managed the game, his pitches were crisper, he competed better. That's what I was looking for. He pitched better than the numbers indicate."

Howell said Lilly was up to the task of facing fellow Major Leaguer Chase Headley, who was playing for Lake Elsinore on his own rehab assignment. Howell said Lilly got three ground balls from Headley, one of them rolling for a hit.

With two of the next six days off, the Dodgers can go at least until April 24 without needing a fifth starter. By Thursday, if not sooner, they will decide whether to put Capuano, who strained his left calf muscle Tuesday night, on the disabled list. Capuano was starting in place of Zack Greinke, who broke his collarbone in last Thursday night's brawl with San Diego.

Lilly had a difference of opinion with management over whether to make a third rehab start, believing he was ready to pitch effectively in the Major Leagues despite allowing 10 earned runs in 12 innings in his first two.

Lilly changed his mind on Monday and agreed to make a third start, with the expectation that he would be activated if he pitched well. A player must agree to a rehab assignment.

Lilly is coming off shoulder surgery, and his Spring Training was interrupted by the flu and a rain-shortened start.

Capuano exits with strained left calf

LOS ANGELES -- Filling in for injured starter Zack Greinke, Chris Capuano left Tuesday's game against the Padres in the top of the third inning due to a strained left calf.

"It's a little sore. A strain, but not a full tear or anything like that," Capuano said after the Dodgers fell to the Padres, 9-2, at Dodger Stadium. "I don't anticipate it will be too long to heal."

Capuano will have an MRI either Wednesday or Thursday to determine the extent of the damage. He said he had a similar injury several years ago during Spring Training.

"It didn't take too long, a couple of weeks," Capuano said. "I hope the MRI shows it's not a very serious strain."

If Capuano requires a trip to the disabled list, the Dodgers will need to make a roster move, but with off-days on Thursday and Monday, the club won't need a fifth starter until April 24.

"We'll talk about it tonight," manager Don Mattingly said during his postgame media session. "[General manager] Ned [Colletti] was in my office before I came in here. We'll talk about what we want to do. We don't need a starter until the 24th. It's always nice to have an extra arm. But then we have to work through the roster and everything else."

Capuano said he felt his calf "pull" while covering first base on a grounder to end the second inning. The left-hander walked gingerly off the field and headed into the Dodgers' clubhouse. He returned for the third and walked the first batter he faced, Jesus Guzman, on four pitches. Mattingly, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and team trainer Sue Falsone met with Capuano on the mound, watched him throw a few trial pitches, and then he headed off the field with the Dodgers trailing, 4-0.

"I came in between innings and we taped it tight around the ankle to take the pressure off the calf," Capuano said. "I felt I could sit back and push off, but the walk to Guzman, obviously, I wasn't able to drive off."

Capuano began the season in the bullpen and made his first start on Tuesday in place of Greinke, who fractured his left collarbone during Thursday's benches-clearing fracas in San Diego. Capuano allowed four runs in the first inning on five singles and a walk.

If Capuano is sidelined for more than a few days, Ted Lilly is likely to return to the rotation. Lilly has been on a rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues and appears ready to return to the big leagues after assistant pitching coach Ken Howell saw improvement in the lefty's outing with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday.

Dodgers borrow Fenway ritual to honor Boston

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers paid tribute to the city of Boston by playing Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" on the public-address system between the seventh and eighth innings of Tuesday night's game against the Padres.

"Sweet Caroline" sing-alongs are a tradition of Red Sox fans at Fenway Park.

The Dodgers also began games Monday and Tuesday night's with a moment of silence in honor of the people affected by the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

Hanley vows to shock by returning 'pretty soon'

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez predicts he'll return from his right thumb injury "way sooner" than the mid-May projection of the doctors who operated on his torn ligament.

"Everybody is going to be shocked," Ramirez said on Tuesday, having hit off a tee for two days and taken swings at soft-toss feeds. "It's going to be a surprise to everybody. It'll be faster than [mid-May]. I'll be in the lineup pretty soon."

Ramirez underwent surgery on March 22 to repair the injury sustained while playing for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic final, diving for a ground ball. At the time, doctors said he would return to the Dodgers in eight weeks.

Ramirez had been throwing despite wearing a plaster cast that covered half of his hand. The cast was removed on Friday and replaced with a removable splint taped to his thumb that allowed him to throw and hit. He said he's felt no soreness.

He said it's "definitely" been frustrating watching the Dodgers struggle to score runs while he's been out.

"I want to be in there," he said. "At the same time, I've got to be smart. It's a long season. It's not even 15 games. We've got to keep playing hard."

Mattingly isn't worried about Sellers' production

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly insists shortstop Justin Sellers is not to blame for the club's lack of run production.

The Dodgers have scored 37 runs in their first 13 games, third to last in the National League and the fewest in the NL West.

Sellers is hitting .176 (6-for-34) with one homer over 11 games, and has reached base at a .263 clip. Of course, the Dodgers fancy Sellers for his glove, not his bat. That's why the club decided to go with him as their primary shortstop with Hanley Ramirez sidelined by a torn ligament in his right thumb.

"I'm comfortable with Sells, especially defensively, we've gotten what we wanted," Mattingly said before Tuesday's game against the Padres. "Offensively, I shouldn't say I expect him to hit a little bit more. It's kind of, in a sense, you get what you expect. I think he can get better. I think he can improve."

The Dodgers are hitting .268 as a team, fifth in the NL. There's been plenty of traffic on the bases, but few runs to show for it. Los Angeles is second to last in the NL with 34 RBIs.

The Dodgers are third in the NL with a .343 on-base percentage. That leads Mattingly to believe the runs will come, regardless of what Sellers does at the plate.

"I feel like he's done the job that we've asked him to do," Mattingly said. "Again, you can try to find every place that we haven't gotten offense from, but Sells is not the problem with our offense. Our problem, again, is basically just not getting guys in. It's not being able to get the runs on the board. It's not a matter of being able to get enough guys out there. We should be able to carry Sells offensively, and really we have, other than not getting the hits when we need them."

Tolleson hopes to start throwing by end of month

LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers reliever Shawn Tolleson received an epidural injection for a bulging disk in his lower back on Tuesday and said he hopes to resume throwing within two weeks.

Tolleson made only one appearance after being called up to replace the injured Zack Greinke on the roster, walking both batters he faced on Friday night. But his back was already bothering him.

He said it is an aggravation of an injury he sustained in January. He believes it flared up between a Thursday night save for Albuquerque and his Friday night appearance for the Dodgers in Arizona. In between, the Isotopes flew to Omaha, bussed to Iowa, then he flew to Dallas en route to Phoenix.

"From all of that, it got tight," he said. "After I pitched Friday night, it got really bad."

Tolleson still has pain down his left leg, a typical symptom of a disk pressing on a nerve. He's already compared notes with Isotopes teammate Chris Withrow, who missed two weeks of Spring Training with the same injury.

"The epidural should help a lot and I'll fly to Arizona tomorrow to rehab," Tolleson said. "As soon as I'm feeling good, I'll jump back into throwing. I'm thinking two weeks."

He's been replaced in the bullpen by Josh Wall.

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.