09/29/12 1:41 AM ET
Gonzalez heating up entering home stretch
By Alex Angert / MLB.com
Gonzalez was riding a nine-game hitting streak heading into the Dodgers' final homestand, hitting .378 (14-for-37) with a double, two homers and five RBIs on the team's recent nine-game road trip.
Prior to hitting the road last week, Gonzalez had gone just 20-for-86 (.233) since making his Dodgers debut on Aug. 25.
Manager Don Mattingly said he's not surprised by the slugger's turnaround over the past nine games, based on his track record.
"I do like the way he looks right now," Mattingly said. "He seems more front-sided to me, where he's staying in there and seeing less of the backhand and more of the front hand."
Mattingly not worried about Kershaw's health
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is going to continue monitoring starter Clayton Kershaw closely, but he said he feels comfortable with his ace on the mound, despite recent hip pain that forced him to miss a pair of starts this month.
Kershaw made his first start in 11 days last Sunday against the Reds, after being bothered because of a right hip impingement. He lasted five innings and walked a season-high five batters, which Mattingly attributed to rust. Kershaw started again on Friday night against the Rockies.
"If he was compensating, we wouldn't have him out there," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said Kershaw performed his between-start duties at 100 percent. If necessary, Mattingly has Stephen Fife and John Ely in the bullpen if there is any doubt about Kershaw on the mound.
"He was out running the next day," Mattingly said. "He threw the next day. He threw his bullpen the day after. He's thrown in between. He's basically done everything that he would always do after a normal start. In his mind, [the pain] didn't come back."
Pederson named Minor League player of year
LOS ANGELES -- Joc Pederson has never been to Israel, so the idea of playing in the World Baseball Classic was pretty far-fetched for the young hitter.
But after talking to his roommate in Spring Training, he realized it wasn't such a crazy idea, having grown up in a Jewish community with a mother who is Jewish.
Fast forward to Friday, fresh off of playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifier and coming a game short of reaching the Classic, Pederson was at Dodger Stadium to be honored as the Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year.
That experience, combined with a stellar season with Class A Rancho Cucamonga, has Pederson riding high. He will be playing in the Arizona Fall League, suiting up for the Mesa Solar Sox next month.
"I'd love to go to Big League camp to get to know some of the guys and then go to Double-A and give it my best," Pederson said.
The experience playing for Team Isreal, which lost to Spain in the qualifier final last Sunday, has helped prepare him for the challenges ahead.
Surrounded by former players Shawn Green, Brad Ausmus, Gabe Kapler and Mark Loretta, Pederson said the experience was one he'll never forget.
"We were only together for like 10 days and this group of guys had so much team chemistry," Pederson said. "They gave me an inside view of what they had to go through and what helped them become a better player and hitter."
Pederson, who was drafted in the 11th round in 2010, batted .313 with 26 steals, 26 doubles, four triples, 18 homers and 70 RBIs in 110 games with the Quakes. He went 4-for-13 with three steals and three runs in three games with Team Israel.
Sellers making progress in back rehab
LOS ANGELES -- Justin Sellers, who has been on the disabled list since May 25 because of a bulging disk in his lower back, was in the Dodgers clubhouse for the first time in months before Friday's game against the Rockies.
Sellers said his rehab has been progressing slowly, but he added he has started to feel better over the last three weeks. He expects to be able to swing the bat and start running in three months and he's going to continue taking physical therapy three times a week until then to strengthen his core.
"I'm getting there," the infielder said. "I'm starting to do a little more everyday. I'm going to keep grinding it out and get stronger and stronger so I can be ready for next year."
Shane Victorino, who is still dealing with a sore left wrist, batted seventh on Friday night, with Mattingly wanting to play it safe in case the wrist flares up during the game. Mattingly said the switch-hitting left fielder is still having trouble swinging right-handed. Victorino went 2-for-4, including a three-run homer in the second inning.
On Friday, the Dodgers sent Minor League infielder Stefan Jarrin to the Phillies to complete the July 31 Victorino trade.
Jarrin, the son of broadcaster Jorge Jarrin and grandson of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jaime Jarrin, hit .209 with three homers and nine RBIs in 26 games for the rookie-level Arizona Dodgers.
Originally perceived as a throw-in to last month's blockbuster trade with the Red Sox, Mattingly has been impressed with switch-hitter Nick Punto's energy and ability to play all over the field.
"He's going to be a valuable piece for us moving forward," Mattingly said.
Punto is 5-for-10 with four runs over the past two games before Friday.
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.