A lot has to happen before Scott Van Slyke has a chance of making the Dodgers' Opening Day roster. But that doesn't mean Van Slyke, suddenly one of the organization's top prospects, can't make a good impression on the front office and the coaching staff during his first big league camp before he heads back to the minor league side of the complex sometime in the next two or three weeks.
Van Slyke was impressive in Monday's 6-4 Cactus League win over the Chicago White Sox, slamming a two-run homer to the top level of the left-field terrace at Camelback Ranch. The shot came off White Sox right-hander Nestor Molina.
It capped a five-run outburst by the Dodgers, for whom Van Slyke, Tony Gwynn (single), Justin Sellers (double) and Ivan De Jesus (triple) combined to hit for the cycle in that sixth inning. All the members of that quartet are sons of former major league players.
Van Slyke is likely headed to Triple-A Albuquerque after erupting for 45 doubles, 20 homers and 92 RBI to go with a .348 average and .427 on-base percentage last summer at Double-A Chattanooga. Imagine what a guy with that type of power could do at high-altitude Albuquerque in the high-octane Pacific Coast League.
For now, though, all Van Slyke can do is hope to get noticed -- and remembered by general manager Ned Colletti and manager Don Mattingly.
"I think it's a chance for Scotty to show he can play,'' Mattingly said. "Sometimes, a guy may be able to hit in Double-A, but that doesn't mean he can hit in the big leagues. Some guys come here and can't turn that corner. For him, it's about that first experience of seeing pitching and being around camp.''
A year from now, though, when Andre Ethier and Juan Rivera could be gone via trade or free agency and Jerry Sands could be at first, Van Slyke might come to spring training on an entirely different mission.
Mark Sweeney, the second-most prolific pinch hitter in major league history, has left his position as a special assistant in the Dodgers' front office to accept a broadcasting position with the San Diego Padres. Sweeney lives in San Diego.
The Dodgers play their "home opener" -- the White Sox share the Camelback Ranch complex and were the designated home team in this game -- on Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants, with Ted Lilly scheduled to start. Juan Uribe, the only member of the Dodgers' projected starting eight who didn't play against the White Sox, will be in the lineup. James Loney won't be, with Jerry Sands expected to fill in at first base. And Jerry Hairston will serve as designated hitter. Mattingly said he plans to use the DH as much as possible even against National League teams because his pitchers haven't taken enough batting practice yet and it will allow him to get a better look at more position players.