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Dodgers cautious with Zack Greinke, still no timetable for mound return

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Greinke on Sunday played catch off flat ground for a third straight day after suffering a mild right calf strain in his first Cactus League start.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

GLENDALE -- Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke played catch off flat ground on Sunday, but there remains to timetable nor any date set for his return to the mound. The team is playing in extremely cautious with Greinke, who suffered a mild right calf strain on Thursday.

Manager Don Mattingly said on Saturday that Greinke's next start won't be in the Cactus League but rather in a controlled environment on the back fields, where the Dodgers can control and limit the amount of activity for his calf. But before he can make that start, Greinke will need to throw a bullpen session first.

"We're still going to be cautious with him going forward. We're trying to keep timetables out of it, just when he's ready to throw a pen we'll be able to go forward," Mattingly said. "We're going to be cautious with him, keep his arm moving without having to put any stress on the leg."

Greinke left his first Cactus League start after just four pitches and two batters against the Diamondbacks on Thursday at Camelback Ranch. He has played catch off flat ground for each of the last three days.

The team hasn't officially ruled Greinke out for the Australia trip, though it seems impossible for him to have enough time to build up his pitch count by March 22-23 to be able to last long in a regular season game. Even the most aggressive timetable would involve a bullpen session Monday and a start maybe on Thursday, giving him only three starts before the trip.

But given there is no date yet set even for a bullpen session, the more prudent course of action would have Greinke remain in Arizona when the team flies to Sydney so he can make two or maybe three extra starts in minor league or exhibition games while preparing for a date closer to April 1, the Dodgers' second game of a three-game series against the Padres in San Diego.