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Dodgers' Puig tests Mattingly's patience

The SportsXchange

The Dodgers' historic trip to Australia was a success. Los Angeles swept the two-game, season-opening series from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and it returns to the United States with a leg up on its NL West rivals.

However, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly left the land Down Under with some exasperation on two fronts. The first won't last -- the Dodgers' bullpen allowed four runs in the ninth inning of the second game, turning an easy win into something more painful to watch.

The second source of Mattingly's exasperation figures to be a season-long drama: Yasiel Puig.

The erratic second-year outfielder was horrible in the first game, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. He bounced back to go 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run in the second game.

Even within that, though, Puig was guilty of a baserunning gaffe that prompted veteran first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to try to set him straight. Then Puig left the game with a back injury -- or did he?

"I don't know," Mattingly said after the game. "He came out of the game, told Stan (Conte, Dodgers head trainer) something's hurt.

"He plays hard, gets hurt but bounces back. We'll see how he is."

Puig dealt with some inflammation behind his left shoulder most of the spring, and he left a Cactus League game early with the problem. Still, Mattingly hinted that Puig's daily drama might be wearing thin.

"Seems he gets something every time he swings," Mattingly said March 23 in Australia. "Like the boy who cries wolf, at some point you never think he's hurt."

The Dodgers have a week off before resuming their regular-season schedule against the Padres in San Diego on March 30. Mattingly was uncertain what tests might be planned for Puig.

"Shoulder yesterday, back today, so I'm not sure if they're going to get him tests or get him to the MRI (on March 24) or a bone scan on (March 25), maybe," Mattingly said. "I'm not quite sure what we'll do. We may not do anything. I'm not sure."

NOTES, QUOTES

--OF Carl Crawford is expected to rejoin the Dodgers in Los Angeles during the last week of March and be activated in time for the March 30 stateside opener against the San Diego Padres. Crawford was on the paternity list while awaiting the birth of a son.

--RHP Zack Greinke pitched twice in minor league games in Arizona while the Dodgers were in Australia. Despite a strained right calf, he was not placed on the disabled list, and he should be ready to make his first start of the season during the series in San Diego.

--OF Matt Kemp continued to play in minor league games in Arizona while the Dodgers were in Australia. He is expected to join the Dodgers in Los Angeles for their Freeway Series against the Angels, which begins March 27. Kemp is rehabbing from shoulder and ankle surgeries performed last October.

--RHP Josh Beckett was placed on the disabled list to start the season, but he has recovered from a sprained right thumb, and he recently pitched in a minor league game. The Dodgers do not need a fifth starter until April 18-20, and they remain hopeful that Beckett will be ready to fill that spot.

--2B Alex Guerrero was on the Dodgers' 25-man roster for the series in Australia but got just one at-bat, striking out as a pinch hitter. The Dodgers will have to clear roster space for their three exempt players (RHPs Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Brandon League) as well as OF Carl Crawford before March 30. Guerrero could be sent to Triple-A at that time.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "You don't want to fly for 14 hours and lose." -- Dodgers 2B Dee Gordon, after the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks twice in Australia.

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