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Zack Greinke gets final tune up in Freeway Series opener

Greinke, who will start the second game of the series in San Diego on Tuesday, starts the opener tonight against the Halos.

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- After just two games, regular season ones even, in the last 10 days, the Dodgers are back on the field for three more practice games against the Angels. Zack Greinke gets the start in the opener of the Freeway Series on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

Even recovering from a strained right calf, Greinke might be the healthiest pitcher in the Dodgers starting rotation. Clayton Kershaw was scratched from his Sunday start with back tightness, Hyun-Jin Ryu may or may not be ready with a cracked toe nail, while Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley are on the disabled list.

Greinke hurt his calf on Feb. 27, then was sidelined for two weeks trying to rebound. He made his first start back on March 12, pitching two innings against the Diamondbacks.

Two days after that start, Greinke said his calf began to feel better and has improved in the last two weeks. Greinke threw 72 pitches on Saturday against Indians Class-A hitters, though he said "the last five or 10 weren't pretty."

"I'd like to be closer to 100 pitches," Greinke said. "Endurance is not quite there yet.

"I'm starting to locate pretty good. Most of my pitches are working pretty well. I just got tired around 70 pitches."

Needing tonight's start to continue to build up his innings, Greinke is locked in to start the second game against the Padres, on Tuesday in San Diego (against Ian Kennedy, a consolidation of both Greinke-infused 2013 brawls). And after two games against minor leaguers, Greinke is happy to face Angels major league hitters in his final regular season tune-up start.

"It's a huge difference. It's nice facing minor league guys because you can work on stuff. With major league guys, if you are working on stuff you could get embarrassed," Greinke said. "When you face real hitters you get a test."

This spring is looking awfully similar to 2013 for Greinke, who played catch-up last year after elbow inflammation but was ready by the first week of the regular season. Greinke has adapted accordingly.

"Ideally you'd like to have a full spring," he said. "But it just didn't happen so you've got to make the best of what it is."

Other side

Starting the Freeway Series opener for the Halos is Hector Santiago, one of two rotation pitchers acquired for Mark Trumbo in the offseason. Santiago, 26, has 218 strikeouts in 224⅔ career innings, and put up a 3.56 ERA with 137 strikeouts and 72 walks in 149 innings in his first year as a starter with the White Sox in 2013.

Santiago last started a minor league game over the weekend but in four Cactus League starts the southpaw struck out 19 with a 2.76 ERA in 16⅓ innings. No current Dodger has more than two plate appearances against Santiago and the only one with a hit is Adrian Gonzalez, who had a two-run single the only time he faced him.

Game info

Time: 7:05 p.m.

TV: SportsNet LA, Fox Sports West