6/28/2013 8:48 P.M. ET
Lilly starting Sunday for Rancho Cucamonga
By Ken Gurnick and Austin Laymance / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly takes his third comeback attempt of the season to Class A Rancho Cucamonga Sunday for a rehab start.
Lilly has been out since June 5 with a flareup of a recurring neck disk issue. It's his third stint on the disabled list this year, as he spent a month on the DL when the season opened because of a slow recovery from shoulder surgery, followed by a three-week stint in May for a ribcage strain.
"It's been a challenge physically and mentally," said Lilly. "I have no option but to stay positive and work and be optimistic."
As he showed last year while winning five of his first six decisions, when Lilly is right he is the epitome of the crafty lefty. But he's tried to pitch hurt this year, going 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in only five starts with the Dodgers. This will be his fifth Minor League start of 2013.
Where a healthy Lilly fits on the Dodgers staff when he returns is unclear, although the fact that the Dodgers have talked about trading for Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza is proof they lack starting depth.
Because Lilly's injury history virtually rules him out of a relief role, he could bump rookie Stephen Fife back to Triple-A Albuquerque or return Chris Capuano to long relief. That was Capuano's assignment at the beginning of the year and an overlooked hole in the current makeup of the bullpen.
"Right now, our depth has really been tested, starter-wise," said manager Don Mattingly. "We're really at five, plus Ted. Matt [Magill] has struggled. So we've kind of exhausted our depth. Obviously we need Teddy to throw the ball well. It would be better for us if Teddy is throwing the ball well. And where we go from there, I don't know. Right now our depth is tested still. At any moment we could be down to four."
Lilly, 37, said he hopes to make 80 pitches Sunday. He's hopeful he will need only one rehab start before being activated, although he and management have differed over that issue in his earlier returns.
Crawford to play in Minors on Sunday
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Sunday, manager Don Mattingly confirmed on Friday.
Crawford, on the disabled list since June 2 with a strained left hamstring, will rehab with Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The plan is for Crawford to play two rehab games in the outfield and two more as a designated hitter.
"Carl seems to pick it up right away, so we'll see," Mattingly said before Friday's game against the Phillies.
Crawford injured his hamstring running out a double on June 1 in Colorado. In 51 games this season, the former All-Star is hitting .301 with five home runs and 13 RBIs. He leads the Dodgers with 32 runs scored.
The Dodgers have used seven players in left field since Crawford went on the DL.
Dodgers get Van Slyke back, designate Cruz
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers activated outfielder Scott Van Slyke from the 15-day disabled list on Friday, and designated infielder Luis Cruz for assignment.
Cruz was the Opening Day third baseman, but struggled offensively and hit .127 with two doubles, one home run and six RBIs in 45 games between third and shortstop. Cruz was a contributor in 2012, when he hit .297 with six homers and 40 RBIs after being called up in July, but was unable to match that production this season.
With shortstop Hanley Ramirez finally healthy and Juan Uribe producing at third, Cruz saw his playing time dwindle. Nick Punto provides the Dodgers insurance at both positions. Cruz was also out of options, which prevented the Dodgers from sending him to the Minor Leagues without the risk of losing him to another club.
"Luis just got caught in a box this year," manager Don Mattingly said. "He struggled early and then Juan has swung the bat pretty well. Trying to get him at-bats after that got tougher. He needed at-bats to get out of it, and he wasn't getting those, and we couldn't send him anywhere to get at-bats."
The Dodgers now have 10 days to either place Cruz on waivers, release him or trade him. If Cruz does not land with another Major League club, he could accept an assignment to Triple-A Albuquerque.
"It's not necessarily the end of the road for Luis here, because there's a period of time that he's available to all teams and then he has a choice to make at some point," Mattingly said. "If he doesn't end up in the big leagues with someone, then you hope that he'll end up in Albuquerque, where he has a chance to get some swings. You never know what happens at that point. He could get a chance to come back again and play."
Van Slyke had been sidelined since June 11 with left shoulder bursitis. He made five combined Minor League rehab starts with Albuquerque and Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga.
In 24 games with the Dodgers before his injury, Van Slyke hit .221 with five doubles, six homers and 11 RBIs. Mattingly said he envisions using Van Slyke in the outfield against left-handed starters and occasionally at first base to spell Adrian Gonzalez.
"The battle will be to try to keep him sharp," Mattingly said.