SAN DIEGO -- Nobody with the Dodgers will say Hanley Ramirez is ahead of schedule in his recovery from right thumb surgery, except Ramirez.
"A couple weeks ahead," said Ramirez, who had surgery for a torn ligament on March 21, and was expected to miss eight weeks.
Ramirez has already had one longer cast replaced by a shorter one that allows him to throw a baseball. That cast comes off later this week, then he will begin strengthening exercises.
But Ramirez said when doctors took off the first cast, they performed a test that determined the ligament was healing well. Ramirez said he's been swinging one-handed in the cage, while taking ground balls regularly at shortstop during infield drills.
"I haven't heard any date. I haven't asked, either," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's still a ways away. He's not throwing-throwing, but he's been able to do a lot of stuff baseball-wise, one-handed stuff, quite a bit of baseball stuff. Hopefully that shortens the timetable of him being sharp when he comes back."
Capuano, Guerrier find work in short supply
SAN DIEGO -- Starters pitching into the late innings. A bullpen that hasn't been scored upon. Two off-days in the first week.
That's mostly good news for the Dodgers, although not necessarily for Chris Capuano and Matt Guerrier, whose roles have changed radically.
Capuano, a former starter sent to the bullpen to be the long man, has yet to pitch in a game. Guerrier, signed two years ago to be a relief workhorse, didn't appear until Sunday, when he faced two batters.
"It's a different role, I'll say that," said Guerrier.
"I'll get Cappy in a game," said manager Don Mattingly. "The right situation hasn't come up. Matt got in the other day. This could be a good series for Cappy. There's a number of hitters he matches up well against. The game tells me what to do. Our starters have gone deep and Kenley [Jansen], Belly [Ronald Belisario] and Leaguer [Brandon League] get the ball late. But I'm not afraid of using Cappy."
Hitless to start year, Cruz turns to father for advice
SAN DIEGO -- Slumping Dodgers infielder Luis Cruz, who entered Tuesday's game against the Padres 0-for-17, checked in over the weekend with his personal hitting coach, Papa Cruz.
"He told me, 'You know what you can do, they know what you can do. Don't let it get into your head,'" said Cruz. "He said, 'Go have fun. It looks like you're not having fun. You look a little jump.'"
Cruz was on the bench for Tuesday's series opener against the Padres, but manager Don Mattingly said that decision wasn't really about Cruz. Juan Uribe is 10-for-26 lifetime against San Diego starter Clayton Richard, while Cruz is 1-for-7.
"I had it in my mind to play Cruzer, then I went over the matchups and it's kind of a spot for Juan," said Mattingly. "The computer got Luis today."
Cruz said he agrees with his father, a hitting coach in the Mexican League, that he's "swinging at balls and taking first-pitch strikes."
"I don't think it's a big deal," Cruz said. "I'm not letting it get in my head. I feel good in the cage. I'll be fine."
Federowicz demoted to Triple-A Albuquerque
SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers optioned catcher Tim Federowicz to Triple-A Albuquerque after Tuesday's 9-3 loss to the Padres to make room for Chad Billingsley, who will be activated off the disabled list to start Wednesday night.
Federowicz's fate has been sealed since Saturday, when the Dodgers acquired veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez from the Rockies in a trade for Aaron Harang. Hernandez became backup to starting catcher A.J. Ellis and Federowicz became expendable, even though all spring the Dodgers insisted he would be Ellis' backup.
Billingsley will be making his first start five days after a Minor League rehab start for Class A Rancho Cucamonga. He was disabled with a bruised right index finger suffered while trying to bunt in Spring Training.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.