Van Slyke, Gordon benefit by sticking it out

Scott Van Slyke has battled his way back to a likely roster spot with the Dodgers. Brian Kersey/Getty Images

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Two of the Dodgers’ homegrown players look like they stand to benefit from their perseverance.

One year ago, Scott Van Slyke wasn’t even in major league camp. The team had taken him off its 40-man roster and outrighted him to the minor leagues. For a player who had touched the major leagues, that was as close to rock bottom as you could get. Now, manager Don Mattingly indicated Van Slyke is a virtual lock to make the team’s Opening Day roster because of his performance last season. Of the players on the roster vying for bench roles, Van Slyke is the only one who has played much first base.

“We don’t want anybody to think they’re in the clear 100 percent, but I feel like with what he did for us last year, we’d like to have him,” Mattingly said.

One year ago, Dee Gordon admitted he was as dejected as ever before in his career. He was a few months from seeing the Dodgers trade for Hanley Ramirez to take his shortstop job and didn’t have a clear path to the major leagues because he only played one position. Now, after learning to play center field and second base, Gordon not only could make the team, he has a chance to be the Opening Day second baseman.

Gordon hit a home run on the second pitch he saw from Hyun-Jin Ryu in the Dodgers’ intrasquad game. That, too, seemed new. Gordon put on 12 pounds of muscle in the offseason working out near his home in Orlando and said he thinks it could help him with the rigors of the long season, as well as with becoming a more well-rounded player. Gordon’s one major asset up to now has been his speed.

Gordon said he now weighs 172 pounds.

“Guys have always been bigger than me,” Gordon said. “I feel like now I can hit the ball harder and be more consistent, not let the ball overpower me as much.”