SAN FRANCISCO -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he met with his four starting outfielders Friday to tell them that one won't be a starting outfielder each game.
"It's going to be a battle no matter how you slice it or how I say it," said Mattingly. "I just told them I'll try to put the best lineup out there every day."
Mattingly said several factors will go into his daily decision, among them current form, individual matchups against opposing pitchers, health issues and preventative days off.
In the case of Carl Crawford, who came off the disabled list Friday after straining a hamstring, Mattingly said he would be eased back into action in the same fashion as Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis were when they returned from pulled muscles. So Crawford was the first to sit, though he pinch-hit for Matt Kemp in the third inning after Kemp grabbed his surgically repaired left shoulder during a second-inning at-bat.
Mattingly said Kemp started Friday because he'd homered in the two previous games, even though his numbers against Giants starter Matt Cain (.216 lifetime) weren't great. Andre Ethier, on the other hand, is .444 lifetime against Cain, making him an easy choice for the manager.
And Mattingly reiterated that as long as rookie Yasiel Puig keeps putting up three hits a game, he'll keep starting.
"They understand the situation," Mattingly said. "I told them we'll do the best we can with it."
Mattingly said he doesn't expect the odd man out to be happy and wouldn't want him to be.
"If they were happy, I'd be a little disappointed," he said. "Actually, this is a good problem to have. I think there's enough playing time, but for a starter it will never be enough when you've got guys who want to play every day."
Crawford comes off DL, enters outfield platoon
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford returned from the 15-day disabled list Friday and immediately suffered the consequences by being left out of the starting lineup for the series opener with the Giants.
He and fellow outfielders Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig met with manager Don Mattingly to learn that one of them will not be in the starting outfield each game.
"Nobody wants to be on the bench," said Crawford. "At the same time, we have four good outfielders and somebody is going to miss out and I understand that part of it. The competitive side, you always want to play every day. When the numbers say you get a day off, take it. Nothing you're going to cry about."
On the other hand, Crawford said irregular playing time has not been the norm when he's healthy.
"I've never been a platoon guy and I'm a little nervous about that," he said. "I've never done it before and I don't know what the results will be. I just have to stay fresh and ready. I don't think I'm a platoon player, but at this point I've got to do what I've got to do."
Crawford got into Friday's game in the third inning after Kemp grabbed his surgically repaired left shoulder during a second-inning at-bat. Kemp stayed in the game before Crawford pinch-hit for him in the third, then took over in left field with Ethier sliding over to center.
Crawford had been out since June 2 with a strained left hamstring. He completed a four-game Minor League rehab assignment Wednesday night at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. Scott Van Slyke was optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room on the roster.
Lilly slated for another rehab start in Minors
SAN FRANCISCO -- Dodgers pitcher Ted Lilly is scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start Saturday for Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
Lilly, out a month with a neck strain, could work his way back into the rotation with Chris Capuano's two recent shaky outings.
The Dodgers, however, are also rumored to be in pursuit of Ricky Nolasco and Matt Garza, two of the bigger names on the trade block.
Dodgers ink infielder Stewart to Minors deal
SAN FRANCISCO -- In the name of depth, the Dodgers signed free-agent infielder Ian Stewart to a Minor League contract.
Stewart was released by the Cubs last week after complaining about management via Twitter because he had not been called up from Triple-A. He will be assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque.
Stewart provides depth at third base, where the Dodgers became a little thinner this week when Luis Cruz left to join the Yankees.
Puig reminds Crawford of another star rookie
SAN FRANCISCO -- Carl Crawford drew an interesting comparison to what he's seen teammate Yasiel Puig do in his first month as a Major Leaguer.
"I've seen this happen before, in Tampa Bay," said Crawford. "Evan Longoria came up and had the same effect and we went to the World Series. It kind of reminds me of that."
Longoria was in the big leagues in April 2008 for Tampa Bay, was an All-Star and was named the American League Rookie of the Year. He hit 27 home runs in 122 games as Tampa Bay lost to the Phillies in the World Series.
"Even though they explained to me the situation [four outfielders for three spots] and I want to play every day, I still like the direction of the team and want to help us go as far as I can," said Crawford.
"I just want to be part of it. There's definitely something special here. It's amazing to see the turnaround with Puig. We saw him in Spring Training, but you still never know what he's going to do. Nobody can say they saw this coming. We're all surprised."
Crawford said he would have no problem with Puig being an All-Star.
"I don't see why not. He's become an international star," Crawford said. "I'm sitting in Arizona [rehabbing], people are talking about him. It's cool for the game, a Cuban guy and what he's done for the city of L.A. I definitely think he should be."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he hasn't been asked by National League All-Star manager Bruce Bochy about Puig and the All-Star Game. And if Bochy asked, what would Mattingly tell him about Puig?
"He's really good, I won't lie," he said. "I'm sure he sees it. It's hard to argue with the numbers. I'd like to see him in it. I'm glad I'm not in the process of making the decision."
Dodgers to offer ticket special in honor of Puig
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Dodgers will hold a 66-minute sale this Sunday to recognize Yasiel Puig's selection as National League Player of the Month for June, offering four tickets to the July 14 game against Colorado for $66.
The tickets for the Dodgers-Rockies game that Sunday will be in the Preferred Loge Box, Reserve MVP or Infield Reserve sections. The sale will start at approximately 2:24 p.m. PT during the Dodgers game Sunday afternoon and conclude 66 minutes later, at 3:30 p.m.
Also at that July 14 game, the first 40,000 fans in attendance will receive a "Puig Factor" T-shirt, presented by Time Warner Cable.
During the 66-minute sale, fans should visit dodgers.com/66puig or losdodgers.com and then enter the promo code 66PUIG.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.