Mattingly on Crawford, players getting chance to play

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The calendar says it's now unlikely for Carl Crawford to be ready for Opening Day, but he disagrees.

"I haven't accepted that at all," Crawford said on Thursday after ending a week-long shutdown by hitting off a tee. "I don't know who is putting that stuff out there. Even with a slower approach, there's still a chance I'll be ready."

Crawford underwent Tommy John elbow reconstruction last August. He was eased into a Spring Training regimen, but the addition of hitting live pitching while increasing the intensity of his throwing resulted in nerve irritation.

Crawford was shut down for a week and prescribed anti-inflammatory medication. With Opening Day just 25 days away, he's now resumed hitting off a tee.

But the "slower approach" means Crawford will need to work his way up to hitting against live pitching before he resumes throwing, as the medical department wants to be able to isolate which activity causes discomfort if it returns. And even though he's been able to continue conditioning, baserunning and fielding, Crawford still hasn't played in any Spring Training games.

Hence, time is already running out, and even Crawford chooses his words carefully.

"We don't really know what caused it," he said. "We're doing it slowly to find out where it came from. When we tried to rush, it flared up. I'm trying to be more patient so I don't have to sit out another week. As I said, I have to be patient. There's still a chance I can be out there [Opening Day]."

Manager Don Mattingly said it was fine with him if Crawford believes he'll be ready Opening Day, but that isn't Mattingly's goal.

"It has to be that he's ready," said Mattingly. "If it's April 10, it's April 10. Once we get him started, we don't want to go backwards. I've been there [rehabbing]. He's missed big parts of two seasons and struggled. Carl likes to work. We feel that's what got him in trouble. We appreciate the work ethic."

Billingsley proving health, quieting doubters

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chad Billingsley seems to have put that partially torn elbow ligament behind him, as much as a pitcher can with an injury so threatening.

He avoided Tommy John surgery last year by instead opting for two platelet-rich plasma injections and rest. Now three starts into his Spring Training, he insists the injury isn't an issue, and management is starting to believe.

"It seems like more and more as we go, when we came in we were kind of concerned after last year if it would hold up," manager Don Mattingly said after Billingsley threw 3 1/3 innings in Thursday's 11-11 tie with Texas, at one point retiring nine consecutive batters.

"To this point, there's been no mention of Chad by the medical [department]. If you didn't know anything had happened, does he look any different? The answer is no. It's really good news, the way he's bouncing back. Today he was really good."

If he stays healthy, Billingsley figures to slot into the starting rotation behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett.

Billingsley isn't concerned if there are lingering doubts.

"It doesn't matter what [management] thinks. It's what I think, and I know how I feel," he said. "I'll be back out there again. I'm feeling good, throwing hard."

Billingsley said he incorporated the cutter Thursday into his pitch repertoire for the first time this spring, and he'll continue to stretch out until the last couple of exhibition starts, when he wants to "put it all together and be ready for the regular season."

Billingsley took a no-decision in a wild game that saw the Rangers take a 7-3 lead with a five-run fifth inning and extend the lead to 9-5, only for the Dodgers to rally late and tie the game in the bottom of the ninth with a three-run homer by Matt Angle off former Dodgers reliever Josh Lindblom.

Angle, taken off the Major League roster last year, had two hits and four RBIs. He has only five at-bats this spring but is tied with Alex Castellanos for the team lead with five RBIs.

Beckett back to work; Greinke to start Monday

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers starter Josh Beckett took his work to the Minor League complex Thursday, pitching four scoreless innings of an intrasquad game.

Beckett skipped his most recent bullpen session but threw in the game one day earlier than usual. Manager Don Mattingly said Beckett, who has been lined up as the Dodgers' No. 3 starter, will get more time off at the end of spring.

Beckett struck out three and allowed three hits in the game, which was watched by Mattingly, pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and general manager Ned Colletti, among others. He made 58 pitches.

In other pitching news, Zack Greinke returned to workouts after missing his start Wednesday with the flu. Mattingly said Greinke will completely skip a turn and start again on Monday. Greinke wanted to start Wednesday despite the flu. He missed his Sunday bullpen session because of forearm tightness.

Scott Elbert reported no issues with his surgically repaired left elbow one day after resuming tossing. He's hoping to be game-ready by the end of April.

Shawn Tolleson, who left Tuesday's game after experiencing a twinge in his left knee, tested it in a shortened bullpen session and said he couldn't duplicate the pain. He's been cleared to pitch an inning Friday.

Chris Withrow, who has been sidelined all spring with lower back pain, is back to throwing off a mound.

Paco Rodriguez recovered from the flu and returned to workouts.

Guerra to root for Team Mexico as spectator

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers reliever Javy Guerra flew in 10 family and friends to watch him compete for Team Mexico this week.

Now that Guerra has been taken off the World Baseball Classic team because of a technicality, he'll join his guests in the stands.

Although Guerra said he's 100 percent healthy following shoulder surgery, and the Dodgers didn't stand in his way to participate -- as they had the right to do because of the surgery -- Guerra was told on Wednesday that liability issues would prevent him from playing.

He said he had an extra physical exam to allay fears and wasn't told who made the final call, only that he's back with the Dodgers.

"Any time you get the chance to put on the uniform of the national team, it's a big honor just to be considered," he said. "More than anything, my family in Mexico was so pumped up. That's what bothers me. But my dad talked me through it. He understands it's out of my control. It wasn't my choice. But I sent him a photo of me in uniform. That makes me feel like a million bucks."

Guerra said he'll be rooting for Team Mexico, which plays the United States on Friday.

Guerra was added to the Mexican team last week when other pitchers dropped off. Because of an injury-plagued season last year in which he also underwent knee surgery and lost his job as closer, Guerra is fighting to stay in the big leagues this year.