Having fulfilled his initial goal of making the Dodgers’ opening-day roster, Dee Gordon now has a new ambition.
“Do what I can to be the starting second baseman, just show them they can trust me and give them confidence that I can be their guy every day,” Gordon said.
Gordon started the Dodgers’ second game in Australia against the Arizona Diamondbacks, but not the first. With left-hander Wade Miley starting for the Diamondbacks on opening day, Manager Don Mattingly opted to sit the left-handed-hitting Gordon and start the right-handed-hitting Justin Turner.
Gordon was encouraged by his performance in the game in which he played. He was three for four with a double that might have been a triple had lumbering Hyun-Jin Ryu not been in front of him on the bases. Gordon also scored a pair of runs.
“They’ve been preaching to me to play my game, play my game,” Gordon said. “I’m starting to understand what my game is. Hit the ball on the ground, hit low line drives, get on base, just pester other teams, get on any way I can.”
Gordon gained 13 pounds over the winter — he weighs more than 170 pounds — but he said he changed mentally more than physically.
“More than anything, I worked on the mental part of the game, just trying to understand myself, understand what I need to do,” he said.
Outfielder Yasiel Puig didn’t undergo an MRI exam or any other test Monday, according to a team spokesman.
Mattingly sounded skeptical of Puig’s claims that he experienced discomfort in his shoulder and back while in Australia. Puig asked to be removed from the Dodgers’ 7-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday because of a tight back.
Meanwhile, Puig was named by 21% of the 143 players polled by ESPN the Magazine when asked who was the most overrated player in baseball. Puig finished second in the vote only to Bryce Harper, who was named by 24% of the respondents.
Alex Rodriguez received 14% of the vote and finished third.
Scott Van Slyke hit a home run on opening day but was on the bench for the second game of the Dodgers’ two-game series against the Diamondbacks.
On Sunday, when the Dodgers play at San Diego, Van Slyke is almost certain to find himself on the bench again. With Carl Crawford returning from paternity leave, the starting outfield is expected to be Crawford, Puig and Andre Ethier.
An irregular playing schedule negatively affected Van Slyke as a rookie in 2012, when he batted .167 in 27 games.
He did significantly better in that kind of role last season, hitting seven home runs in 53 games and establishing himself as a major league player. Van Slyke said he learned to accept his role by playing alongside utilitymen Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker. Punto now plays for the Oakland Athletics and Schumaker for the Cincinnati Reds.
“It was not ‘Woe is me,’ or ‘Why am I starting once a week?’” Van Slyke said. “I think everybody that plays baseball feels they could be an everyday player. Just watching them, when they get the start, their intensity level, their concentration, the at-bats they had. It seemed they always had good at-bats, and when they didn’t they were upset with themselves. They helped a lot.”
Joc Pederson didn’t make the Dodgers’ opening-day roster, but the outfielder prospect thinks traveling with the team to Australia will help him prepare for when he is called up to the major leagues.
“Even if I’m not on the roster, I get to be around the guys when the season starts and kind of get my feet wet,” Pederson said. “Everybody’s different during the season than in spring training, how they mentally prepare, their pregame routines. I get to see it before I’m up here.”
Pederson, 21, is expected to play against the Angels in the Freeway Series this week. He then figures to be optioned to triple-A Albuquerque.
He could be called up to the major leagues in September, if not earlier. If the Dodgers don’t add him to their 40-man roster by Nov. 20, they could lose him in the Rule 5 draft.