Checking in with Carl Crawford

Don Mattingly is excited about his team. In fact, rather than enjoy his dwindling days off, he is jumping into work starting next week.

The Dodgers manager has a couple of stops on his itinerary. First, he's visiting Houston to spend some face time with outfielder Carl Crawford. Then, he's swinging by Arizona to catch the end of the Dodgers' mini-camp for 13 of their top minor-league prospects.

The Dodgers remain optimistic Crawford will be ready by Opening Day, about 10 months after he underwent ligament-replacement surgery on his left elbow. Mattingly said he has been checking in with Crawford periodically this winter via text message, but wanted to meet face-to-face before spring training gets underway Feb. 12.

"It's all positive, nothing negative," Mattingly said. "His throwing will probably be a little behind at first, but as I recall, he wasn't a guy who had a cannon to begin with. He can go get the ball and he's a good defender, but his defense isn't really built around having a good arm."

Mattingly will catch the tail end of next week's winter development mini-camp, which includes top pitching prospect Zack Lee and top position player prospects Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig.