GLENDALE, Ariz. — Apparently, carrying baseball’s highest payroll doesn’t guarantee a worry-free camp.
For a team that’s supposed to win the World Series, the Dodgers have an uncommonly high number of questions at this stage of spring training.
Two urgent topics: Will Carl Crawford be ready for Opening Day? And how about Zack Greinke?
“We have to see,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Thursday. “Carl’s feeling better. We’ve still got some time. If Carl was a guy that we just said, ‘Turn it loose. You can play every day, all you want, hit all you want,’ the chances would be really good, because he’d be ready.
“But in the situation that we’re only going to allow him so much per day takes it back a little bit. Carl’s still optimistic. Until somebody says he cannot do it, then we’re going to be optimistic also. We’re just pleased he’s moving forward.”
Crawford, who was shut down recently because of nerve irritation in his surgically repaired left elbow, took at-bats in a minor-league game Thursday.
Greinke hasn’t pitched in a Cactus League game since March 1 due to inflammation in his right (throwing) elbow. Greinke isn’t scheduled to resume bullpen sessions until next week at the earliest.
With Opening Day barely more than two weeks away, Greinke must return to game action very soon in order to be on track for a regular-season start by the beginning of April. The Dodgers also could slot Greinke as the “fifth starter,” so to speak, and not schedule him to pitch until April 11 against San Diego.
Of Greinke’s status, Mattingly said, “We’ll see where it goes, see how he feels. We’re not going to force anything. We’ve got different scenarios we’ve looked at, that we don’t need to guess at right now — at least publicly.”
The Dodgers’ entire rotation remains in a state of flux. They began the spring with eight starting pitchers: ace Clayton Kershaw, Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ted Lilly, Aaron Harang and Chris Capuano. It’s possible that one or two could be traded, with Harang and Capuano the most obvious candidates. But because Billingsley and Lilly battled injuries last year — along with Greinke’s new elbow concern — the Dodgers could be forced to delay any trades.
Asked how many starters are certain at this point, Mattingly said, “I don’t think we know. It’s hard to say any of them are really set. I think we have some ideas about what’s going on, different plans. But right now, we’re just trying to figure out how to use them all.”
The Dodgers’ uncertainty is hardly limited to the pitching staff. All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp is hitting only .105 this spring, coming off left shoulder surgery. (Mattingly said his at-bats have been “OK.”) Hanley Ramirez is expected to be the Dodgers’ everyday shortstop but has been playing third base for the Dominican Republic during the World Baseball Classic.
Outfielder Yasiel Puig has been one of the Dodgers’ most impressive position players this spring, with a .988 OPS, but Mattingly said it’s probably not “realistic” for the 22-year-old Cuban defector to make the Opening Day roster.
“Not really, in my mind, if we’re going to be realistic,” Mattingly said when asked about Puig’s chances to make the team. “It’s probably not the best thing for him. He may not agree with that, but I don’t realistically think that’s the best thing for the organization, with a guy who’s had the (low number of minor-league) at-bats he has. But he’s played well. He’s done a lot of good things. We see a lot of things that tell us he’s still young.
“Like we’ve said with a lot of guys, they tell you when they’re ready. If he’s ready, wherever he ends up (in the minor leagues), he’s going to tear it up. If he doesn’t, that tells you he’s maybe not quite ready.”
Puig looms as an intriguing call-up possibility during the season, particularly if Kemp or Crawford is sidelined again due to injury.
— Jon Paul Morosi