GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers had only four hits in an 8-1 loss to the Cubs on Thursday, but over on the Minor League side, Carl Crawford was making steady progress in his bid to join the lineup.
Crawford took six at-bats in a camp game against Meiji University of Japan, then played catch from 60 feet for the first time since being shut down 13 days ago with nerve irritation in a rehab setback from Tommy John surgery.
"Everything's good and I hope to do more tomorrow," said Crawford, still intent on being ready for Opening Day.
"It's a good step," said manager Don Mattingly, who said he might ask opponents to reinstate the designated hitter so Crawford can see Major League pitching. He hasn't played in a Cactus League exhibition game yet. "We've talked about it. He needs to get over here."
While Mattingly was pleased with Crawford's news, he was disappointed with his team's energy level Thursday.
"I don't know if it was sloppy, but it was one of those days," said Mattingly. "It feels like we've been here a long time now. Our defensive drill work was pretty good but we got into the offensive routine and I saw no energy. I've got a feeling it's not just us, but I still don't like it.
"You get bad habits when you play without energy. You've got to push yourself through it. I've been there, but you've still got to push through it."
On the pitching end, Mattingly got solid relief efforts from Kevin Gregg, Matt Guerrier and Mark Lowe, plus Ronald Belisario turned it on after a rocky beginning to his one-inning stint.
But starter Chris Capuano allowed five runs in the first three innings before righting his ship and retiring the last five batters he faced. Capuano said he had trouble with command of his fastball, especially out of the stretch. His spring ERA is 10.61.
"As the game went on, I just wanted to be more athletic and let the ball go a little more instead of being so focused on mechanics," Capuano said. "Once I did that, it was more natural and I hit my spots."
Mattingly confirms Puig will begin in Minors
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly continued Thursday to knock down speculation that $42 million Cuban import Yasiel Puig could make the Opening Day roster.
"If he's ready, he'll dominate down there [in the Minor Leagues]," said Mattingly. "He'll let us know."
But Mattingly said Puig won't be ready by Opening Day.
"No, it's not the best thing for him," Mattingly said. "He won't want to hear that. He's been good, but we've seen a lot of things that tell us he's still young and needs work. The guys tell you when they're ready. When he's ready, he'll tear it up [in the Minors.] If he doesn't, he's not quite ready.
"But he's been good. No negatives. Haven't seen him make the same mistake twice. Nothing not to like. He runs, throws, has power. Really positive."
Puig is hitting .424, but struck out twice in his most recent game Tuesday night and has 10 strikeouts and no walks in 33 at-bats.
Greinke recovers as Dodgers consider backup options
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injured Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke said he plans to resume playing catch Friday, but manager Don Mattingly said the club is already contemplating backup plans if the $147 million free agent isn't ready for his regular-season debut April 2.
Greinke has inflammation in the back of his right elbow and received a platelet-rich plasma injection on Monday. He has made only two starts this spring for a total of five innings and would still need to throw a bullpen session before he returns to game action, most likely a week away.
All of that means he's unlikely to have enough foundation to pitch deep into a game by April 2.
"He wouldn't throw a 'pen until next week," said Mattingly. "We'll see how it goes, how he feels. We're not going to force anything. We've got different scenarios I'm not going to guess at, depending on how quickly he goes."
For all of the speculation that the Dodgers would need to move at least one of their eight starting pitchers, Greinke's injury reinforces management's concern that it might need to keep all eight.
"Right now we're trying to figure out how to use them all," said Mattingly. "These guys have all been around, they understand the situation. They are all progressing to start. They all know the possibilities to go in different directions."
For now, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley appear locked into the rotation, and Greinke will start when he's healthy. Until then, Hyun-Jin Ryu is lined up to replace Greinke in the rotation at present. The Dodgers won't need a fifth starter until April 15.
Chris Capuano, Aaron Harang and Ted Lilly fill out the group of starters.
Flu symptoms keep Lilly out of practice
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Ted Lilly missed Dodgers practice Thursday with recurring flu symptoms, making his uphill climb back into the starting rotation just a little bit tougher.
Because of his absence, Lilly missed a scheduled between-outings bullpen session. Missing the bullpen session puts in jeopardy his next scheduled start in a split-squad game Sunday.
It's all the latest in a string of tough-luck occurrences for Lilly, whose shoulder seems sound enough after surgery to have impressed manager Don Mattingly when he has been able to pitch.
But Lilly has made only three appearances for 5 1/3 innings, and he's well behind in building a foundation that would allow him to pitch deep into games when the season starts. By comparison, Clayton Kershaw has thrown 13 innings, Josh Beckett has 13 1/3 innings and Chad Billingsley has 12 2/3 innings.
Lilly missed three days of workouts, a bullpen session and a start earlier this month with the flu. He apparently wasn't 100 percent Tuesday night, when he pitched 2 2/3 innings of relief that included an inning extended by a questionable throwing error that led to four unearned runs.
Lilly is one of eight established starting pitchers with guaranteed salaries that the Dodgers have in camp. His uncertain health coming off labrum surgery was a contributing factor in the club's offseason acquisitions of free agents Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu, and he is joined by Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang as starters from last year's rotation that don't seem to have a role this year.
The 37-year-old Lilly was off to the best start of his career in 2012 (5-0), but made only eight appearances and none after May 23.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.