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J.P. Howell has rough opening to his Dodgers' closing bid

The bullpen was the Dodgers’ most challenging -- see, I can be polite -- area last season, and now with closer Kenley Jansen out perhaps the first six weeks of the season, it might be even more so in 2015.

The Dodgers have more new arms in the bullpen than Scott Van Slyke has whiskers. How they all fit and emerge out of spring will be one of their biggest stories. Only now they not only have to identify their seven best relievers out of the 736 in camp, they have to find one to close.

One candidate is left-hander J.P. Howell, who saved 17 games in 2009 for the Tampa Bay Rays when Andrew Friedman was their general manager.

But in the Dodgers’ 7-4, split-squad victory over the Mariners at Camelback Ranch on Friday, Howell did not exactly start off his closing argument in style.

Howell, who pitched brilliantly last season for the Dodgers (2.39 earned-run average, 1.14 walks plus hits per inning pitched, 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 68 games) until tiring down the stretch, had a...

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Teenager Julio Urias makes spring debut in Dodgers victory

Teenage left-hander Julio Urias pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings Friday for the Dodgers, as Joc Pederson and Alex Guerrero maintained their spectacular early-spring form at the plate in a 10-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Maryvale Baseball Park.

Urias, 18, entered the split-squad game in the third inning, replacing former first-round draft pick Zach Lee, who pitched two scoreless innings.

Urias struck out Shane Peterson, then walked Martin Maldonado. Maldonado advanced to second base when Urias struck out Scooter Gennett on a pitch in the dirt. The inning ended when Urias forced Jean Segura to ground out to second base.

Urias forced Carlos Gomez to pop up short to lead off the fourth inning, but not before Gomez worked the count full. The next batter, Aramis Ramirez, also worked the count full and walked, but Urias picked off pinch runner Elian Herrera. Urias’ day ended with another walk, this one to Khris Davis.

Urias was replaced by Yimi Garcia.

Urias final line: 1 2/3...

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Dodgers' Yasiel Puig smuggler sentenced to one-month prison term

A South Florida businessman who received $2.5 million from Yasiel Puig for helping to smuggle the Dodgers outfielder into the United States was sentenced Friday to a one-month prison term for violating U.S. immigration laws.

Gilberto Suarez, 41, who pleaded guilty in December, will also serve five months of house arrest and forfeit a house, condominium and a car to the government, according to the Associated Press.

"I think the safety of the player and the other aliens was also paramount in his mind," U.S. District Judge Robert Scola said in sentencing Suarez to less than the one-year maximum. 

Suarez's defense attorney Bijan Parwaresch said the money his client obtained from Puig is gone. As part of Suarez's plea deal he is also to give up his interest in St. Louis shortstop Aledmys Diaz, who signed a four-year deal with the Cardinals in March 2014 reportedly worth $8 million.

"We want to send a message that this type of crime should not be rewarded," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron...

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Clayton Kershaw has perfect spring opener in Dodgers' 6-1 win

And then all was right in the baseball universe, or at least in the part that orbits around the Dodgers.

Clayton Kershaw made his first appearance of the spring and looked not like the pitcher last seen being chased by the Cardinals in the playoffs, but very much like the pitcher who was the 2014 National League MVP and Cy Young winner.

That makes for an almost impossible encore, but for one spring game, he looked up for the challenge.

It was only two innings, but Kershaw seemed all business. He retired all six batters, striking out three and throwing in the mid-90s. It only took him 20 pitches, so afterward he threw another in the bullpen.

The Dodgers used Kershaw and more strong play from their young crop of players to drop the White Sox, 6-1, on Thursday at Camelback Ranch in their second exhibition game of the season.

For what it’s worth, in four appearances last spring, Kershaw had a 9.20 ERA.

The next five Dodgers pitchers took their cue from Kershaw. Brandon League and Chris...

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Dodgers' pitching rotation taking shape

Clayton Kershaw is set to make his spring debut Thursday, when the Dodgers face the Chicago White Sox at their shared spring-training complex.

Kershaw will be followed in the rotation Friday by David Huff and Zach Lee, who will start the Dodgers’ two split-squad games.

Mike Bolsinger will start Sunday.

After that, the rotation will look the way the Dodgers hope it will in the regular season.

Brandon McCarthy will pitch Sunday, followed by Brett Anderson on Monday, Kershaw on Tuesday, Zack Greinke on Wednesday and Hyun-Jin Ryu on Thursday.

Right-hander Joel Peralta will throw a bullpen session Thursday. Greinke, who recently received a lubricating injection in his elbow, will throw live batting practice Friday. Ryu, who missed a couple of workouts last week with a tight back, will throw live batting practice Saturday.

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Kids look all right as Dodgers drop spring opener to White Sox

It was the first of 31 practice games, to be followed by 162 regular-season games, and then they hope, a long postseason run.

That makes for a serious amount of games, so there’s no getting too excited about one exhibition game, let alone the very first one.

But it’s the every-journey-starts-with-one-step routine, the Dodgers getting the first spring game of the season out of the way Wednesday, even if it was a 6-4 loss to the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix.

Teams tend to shrug off any underwhelming performances by veterans and check the enthusiasm level of prospects in the spring.

So if Andre Ethier started off his preseason bid to win back a starting outfield job by striking out in his only two at-bats, nobody was going to get too excited. Second baseman Howie Kendrick and catcher Yasmani Grandal each went 0 for 2 with a strikeout, and it was yawns.

Better to take encouragement from the kids, and there was plenty of that to go around.

Joc Pederson, who most think has that...

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