On the fifth day of Los Angeles Dodgers spring training camp at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, manager Don Mattingly talked about the top, as in the two men at the top of his batting order and starting pitching rotation, respectively.
Mattingly spoke highly of Dee Gordon, who is entering his second year but will assume the role of leadoff hitter and sparkplug of an offense that struggled for most of 2011. Gordon hit .302/.325/.362 with 24 stolen bases in 56 games last year, and his manager sees Gordon making big strides.
"We really just think he's going to get better and better. This kid can hit. Obviously we want him to walk a little bit and be able to work a pitcher, and we saw him able to do that a little better as the season went on," said Mattingly on Sunday. "He came back the second time, off that injury, he was a little more patient, understanding when to take a pitch and when to be more aggressive. As he knows the pitchers a little better, we are going to see a guy who grows."
Clayton Kershaw, meanwhile was battling minor tightness in his back and skipped his first scheduled bullpen session on Wednesday as a precaution. But on Sunday Kershaw threw his second bullpen session and while he isn't yet quite at full strength, Mattingly isn't worried about the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner.
"I don't think [Kerhsaw] is at 100%, so it's still something we'll have to pay attention to. Nobody has really turned him loose to let it go so he's still trying to hold back a little bit," Mattingly said. "But it's not anything that has slowed him down or kept him from throwing at all."
Position players are scheduled to report on Monday for the Dodgers, though nearly everyone is already in camp. Mark Ellis and Justin Sellers are among the few who have yet to report to camp.
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