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Carl Crawford looks at positives after Dodgers debut

DODGERS FYI

Playing as designated hitter in his first game since having shoulder surgery in August while with Boston, the outfielder is hitless in three at-bats but says he is encouraged.

March 18, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez, Los Angeles Times
  • Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford works on his swing during a spring training workout.
Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford works on his swing during a spring training… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

PHOENIX — What was an ordinary split-squad spring-training game for most players at Camelback on Sunday was of monumental importance for Carl Crawford.

The Dodgers' 11-1 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers was Crawford's first game with the Dodgers and his first with any team since August, when he underwent a season-ending elbow operation.

"The nerves were racing a little bit," Crawford said. "When you have something taken away from you that you like to do and you've been out for so long, you have a different appreciation for it."

Crawford was hitless in three at-bats as the Dodgers' designated hitter. But the four-time All-Star was encouraged, saying he is still aiming to be the starting left fielder in the season opener against the San Francisco Giants on April 1.

"I'm definitely trying to make it back by opening day," Crawford said. "Will it happen? I don't know. It's definitely something I would like to do."

With less than two weeks remaining in spring training, time isn't on the side of Crawford, who was acquired in a multi-player trade with the Boston Red Sox in August.

To return to the outfield, he will have to show the training staff he can throw. He is playing catch at 90 feet. The Dodgers are planning to continue using him as a designated hitter over their next two games.

Offensively, hitting coach Mark McGwire doesn't think Crawford is far from regular-season form.

When most players hit in a game for the first time in spring training, they tend to lunge at balls, McGwire said.

"He looked really calm, he looked really good, he looked stable in the box," McGwire said.

Powering up

Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp hit their first home runs of the spring. Gonzalez had two opposite-field shots in the Dodgers' home win over the Brewers and Kemp hit a mammoth blast to left field in the Dodgers' other game, a 9-1 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Gonzalez was encouraged that his home runs were to left field. So was McGwire.

"A great sign," McGwire said. "That's what he can do with those balls."

When Gonzalez hit a career-high 40 home runs with the San Diego Padres in 2009, 26 were to left of center field, according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker.

"That's where my swing should be," Gonzalez said. "Hopefully, I can carry it over."

McGwire said Gonzalez's recent batting practice sessions looked promising.

"He found something in his swing," McGwire said. "He's worked on it hard."

McGwire has also liked what he has seen in Kemp's recent hitting sessions. Kemp began Sunday batting .136.

"People can't lose the fact that he's coming back from shoulder surgery on his lead shoulder," McGwire said.

Short hops

Zack Greinke threw a pain-free bullpen session, six days after receiving an injection of platelet-rich plasma in his sore right elbow. But Greinke made no predictions about his availability at the start of the regular season. Greinke, who has pitched only five innings this spring, is expected to pitch in only two more games this exhibition season. "I want to do what's best for the team," Greinke said. "It's not important what day." … Chad Billingsley suffered a minor injury, bruising the index finger of his pitching hand during a bunting drill. … Javy Guerra, who started last season as the Dodgers' closer, was optioned to minor league camp. Guerra is recovering from an off-season shoulder operation.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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