Dodgers 5, Phillies 2: Zack Greinke Is Unspeakably Great

greinke_butera_2014-04-23

I’m almost completely and totally uncertain of what to say about Zack Greinke any longer. It almost feels like we take him for granted, which is completely unfair of us, because his brilliance is nearly unmatched. And yet here we are, after he just struck out 11 Phillies over seven innings, then doubled, walked, and scored a run at the plate, and the reaction is almost: well, yeah. Of course he did. It’s the 17th time in a row he’s thrown at least five innings and allowed two or fewer runs. He’s now got 40 whiffs and five walks on the season. It almost feels like he’s toying with the opposition.

I guess the highest credit I can give him is this: have you noticed the distinct lack of panic around the fact that Clayton Kershaw, the near-unquestioned best pitcher in baseball, has made zero starts in the Northern Hemisphere this season? Yeah, me too. That’s because of Greinke, and to a slightly lesser extent, Hyun-jin Ryu. Greinke was great tonight. Of course he was. He always is.

Oddly enough, the 5-2 score has little resemblance to the game Greinke pitched in. This was a 2-1 game into the seventh, when Yasiel Puig‘s triple — and more on that in a second — drove in Greinke to make it 3-1. In the eighth, things started to get a little wacky. Greinke came out to make one pitch, seeing his night end when Jayson Nix hit a leadoff homer. J.P. Howell sailed through the rest of the inning, then Hanley Ramirez crushed, and I do mean crushed, a homer off Mario Hollands in the bottom of the frame. That was one of two extra-base hits for Ramirez, and after how awful his last week has been, let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come. Matt Kemp had two doubles himself, and Scott Van Slyke, Puig, and Drew Butera (!) also had two hits apiece.

* * *

Kenley Jansen came in for the ninth, his fourth appearance in five days. The Dodgers have 13 pitchers. 13! If it had been a 6-2 lead, he would’t have come in. But it was 5-2, so it was a “save situation.” It was his 16th appearance, and no one else in baseball has more than 12. If you think that’s not going to come back and bite you at some point….

* * *

Back to Puig, this is the triple. SO BAT FLIP, VERY… not a homer (via Chad):

GIF Link

This is awesome. Everything about it is awesome. The flip, the slide, the hammer swing… love it. Now this, on the other hand…

…maybe not so much. Never, ever boring, though.

Diamondbacks 4, Dodgers 2: A tale of two games, but still a loss

greinke_zack_ST 3.12.14

This game was pretty tame and boring until the ninth inning. The game was tied at one on the strength of solo home runs by Miguel Montero and Scott Van Slyke.

After that, it was like an entirely different game. Chris Withrow did this:

That would have been a hell of a way to lose a game. Luckily, Withrow was bailed out by everyone’s favorite Uribear.

Love you, Juan Uribe.

Unfortunately, temporary closer Chris Perez gave up two runs off the bat of Aaron Hill in the 12th inning to give the Diamondbacks a 4-2 win against the Dodgers.

Zack Greinke pitched well, despite not being terribly efficient with his pitches (105 pitches, 68 strikes in six innings). He gave up three hits, a run, two walks (his first since his season debut) and struck out a season-high eight batters. However, the home run bug bit him again, as he gave up a home run to Miguel Montero in the sixth inning. Thankfully, it was only a solo shot. But it was the fifth homer he’s allowed this season in 22 1/3 innings. Last season, he didn’t give up his fifth home run until June 27. Not sure what it means — other than a higher-than-average FIP — but it’s something to watch going forward.

The Dodgers didn’t do anything to help Greinke out, as they didn’t get their fourth hit off Diamondbacks’ starter Wade Miley until the fourth inning. They did draw five walks against Miley (seven walks total, including three by Yasiel Puig), but they couldn’t cash in any of them. They struck out eight times (11 times total), continuing their trend of not putting the ball in play — they’re seventh in baseball in highest strikeout percentage.

Kirk Gibson let Miley go back out for the seventh inning, and he promptly gave up a then game-tying homer to Van Slyke. Miley was already at 106 pitches through six innings and had his best outing of the season, but Gibson pressed it — and paid the price.

Oh, and this:

So, thanks for that, Gibby, even if it didn’t result in a victory.

Game 2 of the series is Saturday at 5:10 p.m. Pacific time. Mike Bolsinger (I know, who?) faces off against Dan Haren.

Diamondbacks @ Dodgers April 18, 2014: Hanley Lives

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Tonight, Zack Greinke makes his fourth start for the Dodgers this season. So far, he has pitched very well, only allowing five runs in 16-1/3 innings. his peripherals have been very interesting. In his first three starts, he’s struck out 21 batters and walked just two. Both walks came in his first start of the year; he’s faced 50 batters (and struck out 17 of them) since he allowed his last walk.

Greinke’s FIP is higher than you’d expect (4.03, above the league average), since he’s given up four home runs. However, the high home run rate isn’t because Greinke is throwing more pitches in the strike zone. So far this season, he’s thrown 41.2% of his pitches into the Pitch F/X strike zone, almost identical to his 2012 and 2013 rates. The biggest peripheral difference is that Greinke is inducing a lot more swings on pitches outside of the strike zone (38.6%, compared to a career rate of 26.8%), and batters are making contact less often overall (71% contact rate this season, career rate is 79.5%).

DBacks
Dodgers 
7:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
RF
Parra
RF
Puig
2B
Hill
2B
Turner
1B
Goldschmidt
SS
Ramirez
C
Montero
1B
Gonzalez
LF
Ross
CF
Kemp
3B
Prado
LF
Van Slyke
SS
Owings
3B
Uribe
CF
Pollock
C
Federowicz
P
Miley (L)
P
Greinke (R)

Greinke’s high home run rate seems a bit like luck, and stats that adjust for it love what he has done so far. xFIP adjusts Greinke’s HR/FB rate from 30.8% down to the league average (around 11%), which results in a stellar value of 1.94. After adjusting for park, his xFIP is third in baseball, behind Masahiro Tanaka and Felix Hernandez. Since his line drive rate is down and his ground ball rate is up, his SIERA (which uses batted ball characteristics to estimate ERA) is 2.02, which is also third best in the majors behind the same pitchers.

In lineup news, Hanley Ramirez is alive! Given how bad the injury looked when it happened, it’s pretty amazing that he missed just one game. Hopefully the medical staff isn’t rushing him back before he’s ready, but for once it feels like the team was lucky on a potential injury. This allows the Dodgers to re-establish the second base platoon, so Dee Gordon gets the night off against lefty Wade Miley. Greinke’s last two games have been caught by Drew Butera, but tonight Tim Federowicz starts in his place.

On the Diamondbacks side, Cody Ross returns from the disabled list and gets the start in left field. Ross dislocated his hip last year. Mark Trumbo gets the night off (and has gone 3-for-36 in the past week).

Below, you’ll notice the return of a feature that was present on Mike’s old site: the bullpen usage chart. You can also find it here. Many thanks to reader/commenter ABSmileBunch for maintaining the chart!

Thurs 4/17Fri 4/18Sat 4/19Sun 4/20Mon 4/21Tues 4/22Wed 4/23
RJ. Dominguez25
LJ.P. Howell171512
RK. Jansen3016111714
RB. League1727
RC. Perez2618
RB. Wilson282315
RC. Withrow2618
RJ. Wright1618

Dodgers 8, D’Backs 5: Arizona Is Bad And They Should Feel Bad

greinke_2014-04-12

I’d like to say that a win is a win is a win, that as long as the Dodgers get the W, none of the rest of it matters. In some sense, that’s true, I guess. That is the most important thing. But I can’t really pretend that’s all I’m taking from tonight’s 8-5 victory. The Diamondbacks, who were the only team in baseball with nine losses, are now the only team in baseball with 10 losses. They’re 4-10. They’re already five games out. They have the worst run differential in baseball.

They’re not the worst team in baseball, of course, (I… think?) and when all is said and done, I don’t think they’re even the worst team in the NL West. But with Patrick Corbin injured in spring, they entered the year in a hole, and now they’re in an even bigger hole. I’d like to say that doesn’t give me a small jolt of extra joy after the reaction to the pool thing, and Kevin Towers basically saying that he wished his pitchers had thrown at Dodgers, and all their talk about “grit,” and Kirk Gibson dumping on A.J. Ellis being sent to Australia on the goodwill tour, but you know what? It does. That probably makes me a bad person. Or maybe just a baseball fan who inexplicably supports one team over another team. Either way.

Anyway, enough about them. Zack Greinke was outstanding again, striking out eight without a walk for the second game in a row. On the season, Greinke’s K/BB is 21/2, which is of course outstanding. But, as he’s done in each of his starts — and twice in his second — Greinke made one mistake, allowing A.J. Pollock to take him deep in the fifth inning. But Pollock’s dinger was a solo shot, and — although he scattered eight hits — that’s what happens when you never walk anyone, ever. Solo homers aren’t the worst thing in the world. In Greinke’s three starts, he’s gone on a tour of most of the division, beating the Giants, Padres, and Diamondbacks. It’s really only because of the presence of Clayton Kershaw that Greinke doesn’t get talked about in the same way as the elite pitchers in the game. That’s unfortunate: he’s elite.

Also looking great: Adrian Gonzalez! Gonzalez hit his fourth homer of the year, a two-run shot in the third off of Wade Miley, and added a walk and a single. Yasiel Puig also got on three times (two hits and a walk), as did Drew Butera (!!) on the same combination, while Juan Uribe added three hits of his own, including a ninth-inning ball off the top of the wall that just barely missed going out. Matt Kemp went 0-4, but we’re only going to talk about the good things tonight.

But really, for all the good that happened: this game dragged. After the Dodgers went up 5-0 in the top of the fourth, it was never in doubt, but the teams combined to use 12 pitchers. Even a good thing like Chris Withrow striking out the side in his lone inning of work seemed to take forever, because it took 24 pitches. Overall, this one went well over three-and-a-half hours — no thanks, it should be added, to Brandon League, who came in with a six-run lead in the ninth and managed to mess things up so badly, giving up two hits, a walk, and a hit-by-pitch, that Kenley Jansen actually had to come in and clean things up for the final out. When you wonder, if you ever do, if anything is wrong with Jansen, note that this was his MLB-leading eighth game of the season already. Thanks, Brandon!

Anyway, a win. And there’s one more tomorrow: Dan Haren faces Trevor Cahill, who has been awful.

Dodgers 3, Padres 2: Puig Smash

puig-points_2014-04-01

Other things happened in tonight’s 3-2 win over San Diego, and we’ll get to them, but also this happened, and thanks to Chad for GIFing it out:

GIF Link

Good lord, that’s just not right.

After Carl Crawford led off the game with a single and then stole second, Puig stepped up against Ian Kennedy and destroyed a ball that was officially listed as having gone 410 feet, but which I assume really left his bat at 410 miles per hour. Puig added a single to left in the seventh and otherwise managed to get through the evening without lighting any babies on fire, so we’ll call that a successful night.

Also successful, for the most part, the Dodger pitching. Zack Greinke probably isn’t quite at full speed after his abbreviated spring, and he was good enough — if not particularly fantastic — in getting through five innings. No one’s complaining about only allowing two runs, of course, and he did strike out five along with allowing a Seth Smith homer. But the fifth inning was a struggle, for after a leadoff walk to Jedd Gyorko, a Will Venable single, and a Chris Denorfia fielder’s choice, his wild pitch brought in Gyorko with the second run.

But Greinke got through it, and Paco Rodriguez, Chris Withrow, and J.P. Howell got through their innings cleanly — though not without a little heartburn from Howell.

Kenley Jansen, finally entering in the ninth, made it interesting, because that’s what closers do, allowing singles to Yonder Alonso and Will Venable, and allowing Alonso to bring the tying run within 90 feet, then — after striking out Denorfia — walking Yasmani Grandal to load the bases with two outs. Fortunately, he struck out Nick Hundley to end it. Fortunately, because I like the Dodgers and want them to win baseball games. But also fortunately, because I didn’t want to rewrite this post and deal with fools who say that Jansen doesn’t have the “guts” to close, or whatever the narrative might be.

Now, here’s the downside: the middle of the order was punchless again. Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, and Andre Ethier combined to go 0-11 with a walk. In four games, Ramirez is 1-15 with two walks. Gonzalez is 1-13 with three walks. Ethier is 2-15 with two walks. It took a Juan Uribe double (and advancing to third on a bizarre error) followed by an A.J. Ellis walk and a Dee Gordon single in the 4th inning to drive the third run home. Through four games the Dodgers have scored just 14 runs.

They’re still 3-1, of course, and that’s all that matters. I think we just wouldn’t mind some baseball bashing from some other members of the lineup. Then again, it’s April 1. Let’s forget I even said anything.

Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke shine in loss to Angels

ramirez_hanley ST 3.13.14

Hanley Ramirez, destroyer of baseballs. (By: Dustin Nosler)

If there’s anything to take away from the Dodgers’ 7-5 exhibition loss Thursday night to the Angels is that Hanley Ramirez and Zack Greinke appear to be ready for action.

Ramirez showed off his impressive power in the third inning by smacking a home run over the right field wall. He followed it up with one of the hardest balls I’ve ever seen him hit in the fifth inning. Seriously, it landed near the top of the left field pavilion. It traveled 465 feet. As long as he plays, oh, 135-plus games, he could very well walk away with the National League MVP.

Greinke displayed some good control (6 IP, 0 BB), consistent velocity and the ability to use and locate all his pitches in his final preseason tune-up for the 2014 season. Greinke will start Tuesday’s game in San Diego.

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Adrian Gonzalez left the game in the third inning after being hit by a pitch on his right elbow. He said he’s OK.

Sunday’s starter is still undetermined, but it could be Hyun-Jin Ryu if Friday’s bullpen session goes well. If it doesn’t, expect Dan Haren to get the call in the stateside opener against the Padres.

Stephen Fife will start Friday’s leg of the Freeway Series at Dodger Stadium.

All Zack, or Zach, day at Camelback as Greinke and Lee pitch

greinke_zack_ST 3.12.14

Zack Greinke didn’t have the best return to spring action on Wednesday. (By: Dustin Nosler)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wednesday was a big day at Camelback Ranch. Zack Greinke made his first appearance since injuring his calf on his fourth pitch of the spring on Feb. 28. Most importantly, it marked my return to one of the best spring training parks in the league. OK, I’m not that full of myself.

Greinke ran into a spot of bother in the first inning, allowing two hits, but he kept the Diamonbacks off the scoreboard. He hit 90 MPH on the radar gun on the only pitch I was able to get velocity on. The second inning was a different story, as he got knocked around for four hits and three runs, including a solo home run allowed to former uber prospect Andy Marte.

Greinke’s final line
2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HR ,0 BB, 2 K

Craig Minami of True Blue LA said Greinke spoke for roughly eight minutes after his 2-inning outing and 1-inning bullpen stint. He said Greinke said he only really pushed off with his drive leg a couple times at the end of his outing. Presumably, he wasn’t feeling confident enough in his calf to go all-out with it — which is understandable. This is his first extended work of the spring, and it’s unfortunate it’s coming on March 12.

He’s already been ruled out for Australia (good), and he was quoted as saying he wants to be ready for the opening series in San Diego, but still has some work to do on that front. But the most important thing, Greinke completed his scheduled work with no setbacks. That’s a positive for him going forward.

Zach Lee, on the other hand, was looking really good for two innings. Then he went out for an unexpected third inning and got hit around a little. Lee was doing a good job mixing in his pitches and changing speeds — even if he topped out around 90 MPH (hat tip to Molly Knight).

Lee’s final line
2 2/3 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

lee_zach_vert_ST 3.12.14

Zach Lee started off strong, but it didn’t last. (By: Dustin Nosler)

Not the greatest outing, but he’s only allowed three earned runs in 4 2/3 spring innings, and has struck out five batters. Keep in mind, this was only Lee’s second outing of the spring, as he missed time early on with a strained lat. His interim manager Tim Wallach was pleased with Lee’s performance on Wednesday.

“I thought he threw the ball well,” Wallach told reporters after the game. “I haven’t seen that play at second. I thought we had a chance to get that overturned, didn’t happen.

“He battled through the inning and was one pitch away from getting out of it.”

Wallach didn’t earn any points today by making Lee issue an intentional walk to the always dangerous Mike Jacobs in his third inning of work. While it may have been the right decision — strategically (even if IBBs are massively overrated) — it’s a spring training game. Let the kid pitch himself out of a jam. Or at least, give him a chance to do so.

And for those who care, the Dodgers lost the game 9-2. Paul Maholm takes the mound on Thursday for the Dodgers against the Reds at Camelback Ranch.

I’ll be out on the back fields early tomorrow morning and should have a prospecty post going up sometime. Oh, and Mike will get his first experience of Camelback Ranch, and yours truly.

2014 Spring Training preview: Starting pitchers

haren_2014-03-01

Dan Haren could be one of Ned Colletti’s best signings.

Age IP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP WAR
Clayton Kershaw 26 2013 236 8.8 2.0 1.83 2.39 2.88 6.5
’14 ZiPS 227.1 9.2 2.1 2.26 2.55 N/A 5.7
’14 Steamer 192 9.2 2.4 3.11 2.98 N/A 3.6
Zack Greinke 30 2013 177.2 7.5 2.3 2.63 3.23 3.45 2.9
’14 ZiPS 192 8.2 2.1 2.95 3.00 N/A 3.7
’14 Steamer 192 7.8 2.3 3.48 3.25 N/A 3.0
Hyun-Jin Ryu 27 2013 192 7.2 2.3 3.00 3.24 3.46 3.1
’14 ZiPS 182.1 7.7 2.5 3.65 3.93 N/A 1.3
’14 Steamer 189 7.6 2.6 3.58 3.38 N/A 2.7
Dan Haren 33 2013 (Nationals) 169.2 8.0 1.6 4.67 4.09 3.67 1.5
’14 ZiPS 162.2 7.6 1.7 3.71 3.59 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 173 7.4 1.7 3.56 3.55 N/A 2.2
Josh Beckett 34 2013 43.1 8.5 3.1 5.19 4.66 3.81 -0.1
’14 ZiPS 103.2 7.8 2.7 3.73 3.83 N/A 0.8
’14 Steamer 77 7.5 2.7 3.81 3.73 N/A 0.7
Paul Maholm 32 2013 (Braves) 153.0 6.18 2.76 4.41 4.24 3.89 0.7
’14 ZiPS 147.1 6.11 2.51 3.97 4.12 N/A 2.0
’14 Steamer 77.0 6.22 2.74 4.01 3.76 N/A 0.6
Chad Billingsley 29 2013 (Dodgers) 12 4.5 3.7 3.00 4.38 4.66 0.0
’14 ZiPS 97 7.1 3.3 3.90 3.74 N/A 0.9
’14 Steamer 19 7.0 3.1 4.14 3.91 N/A 0.1
Stephen Fife 28 2013 (Dodgers) 58.1 6.9 3.1 3.70 4.35 3.89 0.1
’14 ZiPS 124 5.5 3.8 4.57 4.68 N/A -0.5
’14 Steamer 19 6.2 3.6 4.48 4.23 N/A 0.1
Matt Magill 24 2013 (Dodgers) 27.2 8.5 9.1 6.51 7.13 6.04 -0.8
’14 ZiPS 117.1 8.2 5.7 4.60 4.74 N/A -0.4
’14 Steamer 19 8.4 5.9 4.47 4.21 N/A 0.1
Zach Lee 22 2013 (AA) 142.2 8.3 2.2 3.22 33.7 N/A N/A

The Dodgers have always been known for their pitching — especially their starting pitching. With this potentially stellar group led by Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers figure to have one of the best rotations in the majors.

Kershaw is coming off his second Cy Young award in three years, and it easily could have been 3-for-3. He’s the first starting pitcher (who qualified for the ERA title) to post a sub-2 ERA since Pedro Martinez did it in his historic 2000 season. Greg Maddux last did it in the National League in 1995. Yes, ERA is becoming more and more like batting average, but if a guy hit .375, that’s going to open some eyes.

A’s
Dodgers 
1:05pm PT
Glendale, Ariz.
CF
Burns
2B
Gordon
SS
Punto
LF
Crawford
3B
Donaldson
SS
Ramirez
DH
Cespedes
CF
Ethier
1B
Callaspo
RF
Puig
RF
Taylor
3B
Uribe
CF
Gimenez
1B
Van Slyke
LF
Fuld
C
Federowicz
2B
Elmore
P
Ryu

The soon-to-be-26-year-old signed a monster contract extension in the offseason and will be a Dodger for at least the next five seasons. While he’s off to a slow start in spring training (10.00 ERA, 1.78 WHIP, .308 BAA), it’s nothing to be concerned about. He’s going to be one of the two pitchers to start the Dodgers’ opening series in Australia. While the last memory some folks have of Kershaw is his disastrous Game 6 performance in the NLCS, he’s primed to bounce back from that.

Zack Greinke is coming off a great first season in Los Angeles. Despite missing time with a broken collar bone, he was still able to be the unquestioned No. 2 starter on the staff. For a time last season, Greinke was the Dodgers’ best pitcher; he has that kind of ability. Entering his age-30 season, Greinke is showing no signs of slowing down. He might not be the 220-plus inning workhorse many would like him to be, but he’s going to give the Dodgers quality innings while he’s out there. He’s been hampered by a calf injury thus far, but he should be ready for stateside opening day.

Hyun-Jin Ryu’s debut season was fantastic. After a lot was made of his signing, and the uncertainty behind it, he went out and pitched about as well as anyone could have expected. He should take a step forward this season and be a 200-plus inning pitcher for the Dodgers. I’m predicting a big season from Ryu, i.e. better numbers than he posted in his rookie year (even if the projection systems disagree). He’ll join Kershaw pitching in Australia.

Dan Haren was a quick signing by Ned Colletti, and it could pay off big time for the Dodgers. Haren is a local kid and, despite a couple of down seasons, could be one of the best No. 4 starters in the game. Both ZiPS and Steamer expect him to be better than Ryu. I don’t think he’ll be that good, but he should be a quality pitcher for the Dodgers.

Those are the locks, barring injury. Now comes the fun part.

Josh Beckett has looked pretty good this spring, even if the Mariners roughed him up on Sunday. His velocity seems to be solid and his curveball (in his first start) was good. He’s recovering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery, so it’ll be interesting to watch his progress. He has the inside track for the No. 5 spot right now.

Paul Maholm was a nice value signing, and an insurance policy in case Beckett’s offseason surgery prevented him from pitching (well) in 2014. He won’t overpower hitters and he’s the definition of a crafty lefty. He said after he was signed that he’d be willing to pitch out of the bullpen, if needed As of right now, it looks like that might be the case.

Chad Billingsley won’t be ready until — depending who you believe, June or July. He’ll likely be brought back slowly, pitching out of the bullpen to build up his endurance. Remember, he won’t get a regular spring training. Sure, he’ll get a few rehab starts in the minors, but it isn’t the same. If he comes back and is a anywhere close to his former self, that would only be a good thing for the Dodgers.

Stephen Fife had a solid stretch in 2013 when he was an effective pitcher. Some poor late-season outings put a damper on an otherwise solid season. He should head the Albuquerque Isotopes’ pitching staff and be on the short list if the Dodgers need an emergency start.

Matt Magill had a fantastic debut against the Milwaukee Brewers only to see Matt Guerrier blow the game for him. There wasn’t much other good from Magill’s time in the majors in 2013. He completely forgot how to throw strikes and couldn’t be counted on. He had control issues in Triple-A, but he showed flashes that made him a Top-10 prospect last year.

Zach Lee had a solid spring debut on Friday, throwing two scoreless innings against the Rangers. He is the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect and the one closest to the majors after Ross Stripling was diagnosed with a torn UCL. He could make his debut in 2014, but it’d be in a capacity not dissimilar to Joc Pederson‘s — an extended period of time, not a spot-start.

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With that, we conclude the Dodgers Digest Spring Training Preview series. Baseball is almost here for real, folks.

Matt Kemp could see game action soon, says Don Mattingly

kemp_road_grays

Matt Kemp could soon return to game action for the Dodgers, according to manager Don Mattingly (via Ken Gurnick).

“I think that’s fair to say,” Mattingly said when asked if Kemp’s intensifying workouts were a sign that game action could soon follow.

Kemp, recovering from serious ankle surgery, has begun to run and make turns, although not yet on the bases. He also has resumed tracking fly balls in the outfield. He has been taking batting practice and throwing throughout Spring Training. He will start the season on the disabled list.

“We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” said Mattingly. “He’s swinging the bat good. It won’t be long before he’s in a game.”

Dodgers (ss)
Mariners
6:05pm PT
Phoenix, Ariz.
2B
Gordon
CF
Almonte
LF
Crawford
3B
Seager
SS
Ramirez
SS
Franklin
RF
Van Slyke
DH
Smoak
1B
Robinson
1B
Montero
3B
Uribe
LF
Romero
CF
Pederson
RF
Jones
C
Federowicz
2B
Triunfel
DH
Guerrero
C
Quintero
P
Beckett
 
P
Beavan

Understandably though, as they’ve done all off-season, Dodgers management has refused to set a timetable or raise expectations on his return.

Mattingly, however, wouldn’t say if the club will see Kemp in a game before the team flight to Australia on March 16.

“I don’t put that kind of timetable on it,” he said. “As long as he’s moving forward.”

It makes sense and jives with the off-season company line regarding Kemp’s health, which has been basically to not rush proceedings via media quotes under any circumstances.

Timetable or not, it’s the first indication the Dodgers have given that we could soon see Kemp on the field again, and it certainly represents a positive step forward in the rehab process.

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Also of note in terms of injury, Zack Greinke threw 34 pitches in a BP session today and felt “pretty good.”

Most importantly, it led to this assessment of his current speed.

“I could field now,” he said. “If I had to beat Dee (Gordon) to first base from the mound, Dee would beat me. If it was A.J. Ellis, I still might not, but I’d probably beat him.”

Poor A.J. Ellis.

Finally, Yasiel Puig was excused today to deal with a “personal matter.” No details on that were revealed.

Projected 2017 Dodgers’ pitching staff

If you thought projecting the 2017 lineup was tough, you haven’t seen anything yet. While you’ll recognize a lot of the names listed here, the pitching projections are a lot more unstable than the position player projections.

Without further adieu, here is who you should expect to see Opening Day 2017.

Starting Pitcher 1
If Clayton Kershaw isn’t the Dodgers’ No. 1 starter in three years, it’s highly likely he’s been abducted by aliens.

Options
Clayton Kershaw: Will be in his age-29 season and rolling around in his millions of dollars he’ll have already earned.

2017 SP 1: Kershaw

Even with the opt-out clause in his 7-year deal (after the fifth year), Kershaw will still be owed $33 million for the 2018 season, with a $65 million due the next two seasons — which will be his age-31 and 32 seasons. Odds are he’ll opt out, and the Dodgers will sign him to a new mega deal.

Starting Pitcher 2
This is a situation similar to Kershaw’s, as Greinke is clearly the second-best starting pitcher the Dodgers have now (and probably will have) in 2017.

Options
Zack Greinke: Will be 33 and will likely have been re-signed to a new contract (opt-out after 2015).
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Will be in the fifth year of a 6-year deal and entering his age-30 season.
Julio Urias: Almost preposterous to include him, seeing as he’ll be 20 years old and could conceivably be in his second full season.

Dodgers
Reds
6:05 p.m. PT
Goodyear, Ariz.
CF
Gordon
CF
Hamilton
DH
Crawford
2B
Phillips
RF
Puig
1B
Votto
1B 
Gonzalez
LF
Ludwick
3B
Uribe
RF
Bruce
LF
Pederson
3B
Frazier
2B
Guerrero
SS
Cozart
C
Federowicz
C
Pena
SS
Rojas
DH
Duran
P
Ryu
P
Bailey

2017 SP 2: Greinke

Greinke is probably going to opt out of his deal in 2015. He’s such a good pitcher, has such good mechanics and is one of the smartest pitchers in the last 15 years that the Dodgers couldn’t possibly pass on bringing him back. He figures to age well as he doesn’t rely on elite velocity to be successful.

Starting Pitcher 3
Here’s where things get a little murky — in a good way. There are two or three guys who could realistically lay claim to this spot in the rotation.

Options
Chad Billingsley: Will be entering age-32 season and could be on a different team by this point.
Zach Lee: If he reaches his potential, this could be his spot — even in his age-25 season.
Hyun-jin Ryu: Only figures to get better; certainly doesn’t figure to get any worse.
Julio Urias: The most potential of anyone on this list.

2017 SP 3: Ryu

Ryu figures to have some really solid campaigns behind him by this point. He’s the best pitcher of the four listed above and could be one of the game’s best left-handers by 2017.

Starting Pitcher 4
This spot almost seems reserved for a certain 20-year-old, as he has some of the most pure talent in the Dodgers’ farm system.

Options
Chris Anderson: The 2013 first-rounder will be 24 and probably one of the best prospects in the system, if he’s still eligible.
Chad Billingsley: Probably on a different team by now.
Zach Lee: More likely the No. 5 starter — or a No. 3 or 4 on another team.
Ross Stripling: Will be 27, unlikely after Tommy John surgery, but still has a starter’s repertoire/build.
Julio Urias: This is his spot.

2017 SP 4: Urias

This will be just the beginning for Urias. He’ll be 20 years old and on his way up. He’ll eventually be the Dodgers’ No. 2 starter — at least, as long as Kershaw is still around.

Starting Pitcher 5
This spot will likely be filled from within the system — and could even be a player who isn’t yet a member of a Dodger (i.e. a draftee).

Options
Chris Anderson: While it’d be nice to see him make it as a starter, he could be dominant reliever.
Chad Billingsley: Love ya, Chad, but I’m sure you’ll be in Cincinnati by this time.
Zach Lee: Hoping that $5.25 million bonus pays off by this time.
Ross Stripling: Might be a reliever or with another organization.

2017 SP 5: Lee

Lee could end up being a Kyle Lohse-type, which would be a fantastic No. 5 starter in this game (at a fraction of the cost). His stuff could be average at this point and he’d still be a great No. 5 starer.

Closer
At one time, everyone thought Eric Gagne would never break down and he’d go down as one of the greatest closers ever. He had the best 3-year stretch of any reliever, but he eventually broke down. Kenley Jansen is great, but there’s a chance he could — eventually — break down. Not because of anything he has or hasn’t done, but because of the position itself.

Options
Chris Anderson: Has the arsenal to do the job, but makeup/poise are unknown.
Onelki Garcia: Has a potentially devastating 2-pitch combo that gives him a closer’s ceiling.
Kenley Jansen: Will be 29 years old and be making crazy money.
Chris Withrow: Has the best stuff of this quartet, but control/command are question marks.

2017 Closer: Jansen

Provided Jansen’s cutter is still as filthy as it is now, I don’t see him breaking down physically (as long as his heart is OK) and I see his control/command holding up just fine. But it’s nice to see the Dodgers have some legitimate options if things change dramatically in three years.

Relief Pitchers
The most volatile of any player on the baseball field, don’t expect to see a lot of veteran presents here, as the Dodgers should fill voids in the bullpen from within.

Options
Chris Anderson: Heavy fastball and slider combination should play up out of the ‘pen.
Jose Dominguez: Elite fastball velocity should be sustainable as he enters his age-26 season.
Onelki Garcia: Will be in age-26 season and could find himself traded by this time.
Yimi Garcia: Will be entering age-26 season, and despite fastball spin, lack of plus-velocity could hold him back.
J.P. Howell: Will be 34 and a free agent, likely not brought back.
Matt Magill: Will be 27 and needs to keep command/control in check to have a long-term career.
Chris Reed: Only on here because of his prospect ranking, I have no faith in him — even out of the ‘pen.
Paco Rodriguez: Should have established himself as one of the best lefty relievers in the game at age-26.
Tom Windle: Will be 25 and a cheaper option than a guy like Rodriguez.
Chris Withrow: Should start getting expensive at age-28, could be a trade candidate.

2017 RPs (6): Anderson, Dominguez, O. Garcia, Rodriguez, Windle, Withrow

Aside from Howell and, to a lesser extent, Rodriguez, these are all power arms and all should do quite well setting up the Dodgers’ 2017 closer. The only problem is, guys like Rodriguez and Withrow figure to start getting expensive — perhaps too expensive for the Dodgers (as funny as that sounds). That’s where the next tier of reliever prospects comes in — Victor Arano, Ralston Cash, Jharel Cotton, Scott Griggs, etc.

Player Position
Clayton Kershaw SP 1
Zack Greinke SP 2
Hyun-Jin Ryu SP 3
Julio Urias SP 4
Zach Lee SP 5
Jose Dominguez RP
Onelki Garcia RP
Tom Windle RP
Chris Anderson RP
Paco Rodriguez RP
Chris Withrow SU
Kenley Jansen CL