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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake was removed from Monday's Cactus League game after two innings because of back soreness, a move manager Joe Torre and trainer Stan Conte said was precautionary.
"Before the game, he was playing catch and getting loose, and he said he felt something back here" Torre said of Blake's back. "Then during the game, he came in to field a bunt [in the second inning] and dropped down sidearm to throw, and he felt it again. We just didn't want to take any chances. We'll wait and see. The good news is that it didn't bother him when he swung the bat.''
Blake singled to left in his only plate appearance in the top of the second inning, giving him two hits in five at-bats this spring. He is a key piece of what is expected to be the Dodgers' regular lineup this season.
He is listed as day to day.
Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, the two young guns in the Dodgers' starting rotation, turned in pitching lines that were almost identical in Monday's 3-2 Cactus League loss to San Francisco: each threw two innings, each allowed a run on three hits and each struck out one.
Their performances, however, were hardly identical.
Billingsley, who started the game, began his spring by getting two quick strikes on Aaron Rowand. Six pitches later, he walked Rowand, and from there, Billingsley seemed to fall into his old habit of living on the edge.
He gave up two more hits, including an RBI single by Pablo Sandoval that tied the game after Matt Kemp's homer in the top of the inning. But Billingsley then got Bengie Molina to pop up, and Fred Lewis grounded into an inning-ending double play on a nice scoop by Dodgers first baseman James Loney to end the threat.
Billingsley got into more trouble in the second, giving up a leadoff double to Juan Uribe and walking John Bowker before Kevin Frandsen sacrificed. Eugenio Velez failed to drive in the run, grounding to first against a drawn-in infield, and Rowand took a called third strike, ending Billingsley's day.
"In the first inning, Billingsley threw 24 pitches,'' Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "If he throws 30, I think you have to question whether to send him out for that second inning.''
High pitch counts plagued Billingsley at various times during his first four seasons in the majors. They plagued him again Monday, although he did wriggle out of danger.
"I want to see him comfortable,'' Torre said. "I want to see him be able to repeat his delivery. He worked on some mechanical stuff this offseason. ... He has a tendency sometimes to throw a little bit too hard and start going sideways.''
Kershaw, by comparison, breezed through his two innings. He issued a harmless, two-out walk to Molina in the third, then gave up a run in the fourth on Bowker's triple -- a ball that scooted up the line and into the right-field corner on a borderline fair/foul call by the first-base umpire -- and Velez's single.
Kershaw then had to go to the bullpen and throw some more just to get to his required number of pitches.
Dodgers reliever Cory Wade, who was hoping to compete for one of the team's bullpen openings, is sidelined for the next two weeks with a recurrence of the right-shoulder problems that landed him on the disabled list twice last season.
"He got a [cortisone] shot in the shoulder,'' Torre said. "He took an MRI, and there were no structural problems.''
Wade had a strong rookie campaign for the Dodgers two years ago, but injuries and ineffectiveness resulted in him finishing last season at Triple-A Albuquerque. He didn't receive a September call-up.Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.