SAN DIEGO -- Elian Herrera, promoted this week from Triple-A Albuquerque as a speedy infielder, was signed by the Dodgers in 2003 as a slow catcher.
Herrera, who got his first Major League start Wednesday at second base and batting second, said he originally was signed by the Dodgers as a catcher after trying out with the Yankees. He hurt his elbow and, while rehabbing, spent time running on the beach in the Dominican.
"I built up my legs and I started running faster," Herrera said.
Herrera also took balls in the infield and outfield while rehabbing and coaches liked his actions and decided to move him out from behind the plate.
But that didn't mean he was on a fast track to the Majors. In fact, that was nine years ago. He spent three years at the Dodgers' academy in the Dominican Republic.
"If I hadn't come to the States after that, I wasn't going to play anymore," he said.
There was another three years in Rookie and Class A before he said his game came together while playing for Carlos Subero at Class A Inland Empire, where he stole 42 bases. He had 32 and 33 steals the next two years and had nine more at Albuquerque.
"He taught me a lot," Herrera said of Subero. "He taught me what kind of player I am."
Herrera wasn't protected in the Rule 5 Draft or invited to Major League Spring Training, but he was hitting .358 when promoted. A .404 average against left-handed pitching earned him a spot in Wednesday's lineup against left-hander Clayton Richard.
Herrera said his confidence was boosted by success playing winter ball in the Dominican.
"I played with a lot of good players, and if you can play in the Dominican, you can play here," Herrera said.
Ethier only Opening Day starter in lineup
SAN DIEGO -- There are more players from the Dodgers' Opening Day lineup recovering from Tuesday injections (Matt Kemp and Juan Uribe) than are in Wednesday's starting lineup (only Andre Ethier).
Kemp (left hamstring) and Uribe (left wrist) received platelet-rich plasma injections to speed recoveries from their respective injuries. Kemp has a slight left hamstring strain and is expected to begin hitting off a tee Thursday if he has no pain and might return after the minimum 15 days on the disabled list.
Trainer Sue Falsone said it's still the club's goal to have Kemp back to work on May 29. Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp is likely to play at least one Minor League rehab game before returning.
"Then you know he's 100 percent," Mattingly said.
Uribe's injury is more complicated. Falsone said Uribe will see a hand specialist over the weekend. She said surgery hasn't been ruled out, but would not say what a Tuesday MRI showed.
"I'm not giving you much -- call it a wrist sprain for now, stemming from when he slid in April," she said.
Uribe's wrist tends to improve with rest, only to flare up again with activity, indicating that even if surgery isn't the next course of action, he's likely to be sidelined a while.
Additional injuries to Juan Rivera and Jerry Hairston left Mattingly to pencil out a lineup that included only one player from Opening Day. Mattingly had five left-handed hitters against a left-handed starting pitcher (Tony Gwynn, Bobby Abreu, Andre Ethier, Adam Kennedy and Chris Capuano).
It wouldn't have qualified as a legal Spring Training lineup, which requires four starters or established Major Leaguers.
"It qualifies for next year in Spring Training," joked Mattingly. "We're in a situation like a lot of other teams where guys are down. We've just got to weather the storm. We're lucky, we've got it, but they're temporary. It seems worse because it came in bunches."
Matt Treanor, who apparently is the unofficial catcher for Capuano, was behind the plate for A.J. Ellis. Mark Ellis was rested after his three-hit game on Tuesday night.
"It's because we've had a couple funky series, a day game, bussing back and forth, and it just looks funny because nobody else is in the lineup," said Mattingly. "He's just getting a day. I don't want another guy [hurt], not that you can prevent it."
Mattingly, Hansen working with struggling Gordon
SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers held a course in remedial hitting for struggling shortstop Dee Gordon before Wednesday's game.
Rather than in the privacy of the indoor batting cage, manager Don Mattingly and hitting coach Dave Hansen had Gordon hitting off a tee in the batting cage on the field before the Dodgers stretched for regular batting practice.
"It's just to get him to hit," said Mattingly. "That's a drill I've done with a couple guys so they can see the ball travel. It helps find contact points. It controls where the ball is and you see where it travels -- instant feedback.
"In the [indoor] cage, it hits the next so quick you don't know where the ball is going. This tells you if you're too far out, not far enough out."
Entering Wednesday's game, Gordon was hitting .212 (.156 against left-handed pitching), coming off a .161 homestand. He has 28 strikeouts and seven walks in 137 at-bats and a .248 on-base percentage.
Justin Sellers started at shortstop on Wednesday and Tony Gwynn hit leadoff.
Guerrier making progress toward return
SAN DIEGO -- Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier, on the disabled list since April 19, is finally making progress from right elbow tendinitis and is hoping for a return in the next two weeks.
Guerrier threw his second bullpen session on Wednesday, incorporating offspeed pitches for the first time off a mound. He could soon face hitters, a prelude to a Minor League rehabilitation stint before being activated.
"It's going good right now," said Guerrier. "I'm recovering. I'd like to be back by June 1 if I could. I don't feel any sharp pain anymore, and that's what I was having before."
The Dodgers' bullpen has been one of the trouble points this year, with Javy Guerra losing the closer job to Kenley Jansen, the ineffectiveness of Todd Coffey and inconsistency of Scott Elbert. Meanwhile, Josh Lindblom has moved into Guerrier's workhorse role and Ronald Belisario has returned to take over the innings Coffey was signed to pitch.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.