5/18/2013 12:14 A.M. ET
Van Slyke's emergence creates questions for Cruz
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Luis Cruz and Scott Van Slyke were in the Dodgers' lineup Friday night, but their careers are suddenly headed in opposite directions.
Van Slyke, taken off the roster after a disappointing 2012, fought his way back to the Major Leagues this year and started Friday night in right field for Andre Ethier.
The move worked wonders, as Van Slyke homered twice and made a terrific sliding catch on a ball hit by Chris Johnson in the fifth inning.
Manager Don Mattingly said he wants to use Van Slyke as he planned to use injured utility man Jerry Hairston, giving days off to corner outfielders and infielders. Mattingly had said earlier in the week that he wanted to give Ethier off Friday after Thursday's day off. Van Slyke can play the outfield corners and back up at first base.
Cruz entered the season as the incumbent third baseman after a breakthrough second half last year, but he entered Friday hitting only .087, and the Dodgers need to make a move in the next few days when Mark Ellis returns from the disabled list.
Cruz is out of options, so he could be lost to another club, if another club wants to take a chance on a struggling hitter. Cruz said he can't worry about the roster moves and is just happy to get another chance.
"I know I'm struggling, but I can't think like that," Cruz said. "That puts pressure on you. Every day is a new start to show what I can do. Today's the day. I can't wait."
Mattingly said his decision to start Cruz at third and Nick Punto at second was influenced by wanting to give Skip Schumaker a day off to rest a sore knee.
Injury updates offer both good, bad news for Dodgers
ATLANTA -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly gave a lengthy injury update Friday that included good news on Zack Greinke, the impending return of second baseman Mark Ellis and a setback for utility man Jerry Hairston.
Greinke came out of his first start after collarbone surgery in good shape and is scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday before starting Tuesday in Milwaukee. His only concern was running out of gas in the sixth inning Wednesday, which could be addressed by doing more running between starts, but he also expressed concern about risking injury to his legs if he changes his normal routine.
Ellis played three innings for Double-A Chattanooga on Friday and grounded out in his lone at-bat, and is scheduled to play six innings Saturday. He could rejoin the club Sunday or Monday, and Mattingly said he wasn't worried about Ellis rushing, because "he's pretty honest."
"He knows the circumstances if he comes back and goes down again," Mattingly said.
Hairston developed knee discomfort while rehabbing a groin strain in Arizona and "is on hold right now," Mattingly said.
Reliever Scott Elbert's rehab stint has moved to Double-A Chattanooga, and he could pitch on back-to-back days as soon as this weekend, which would qualify him for activation and give the Dodgers three lefties in the bullpen.
Ted Lilly had one rehab start with Class A Rancho Cucamonga, threw a bullpen session Friday and told the club he's ready to be activated. Mattingly said he wants Lilly to make another rehab start -- a repeat of last month's standoff over the same issue.
"It feels real familiar," Mattingly said. "I understand Ted feels he's ready to pitch, and he sees what Zack did out a month with one rehab start."
Hanley Ramirez began playing catch and is hitting in the cage, but after seeing Matt Kemp relapse from the same injury last year, Mattingly concedes he's concerned about anything close to rushing a player back from a bad hamstring pull.
Josh Beckett was able to play catch and reported his strained groin had improved considerably. Stephen Fife's healing shoulder was able to handle a 50-pitch bullpen session Friday.
Mattingly wants Jansen facing toughest hitters
ATLANTA -- Don Mattingly has adjusted his late-inning bullpen use recently by deploying Kenley Jansen to face the hitters posing the greatest threat, no matter the inning.
"I don't like a committee of guys, that's always unsettling, like every day is a tryout, and that's not the environment I want for my pitchers," said Mattingly. "I want them to know I'm confident in them and trust them. It's not like you give up a run and you're out.
"But the way it's been going is the best way to do it. Kenley gets the tougher part of the order, and there's a chance of anybody in the ninth. We don't have Mariano [Rivera]. You see teams changing all the time in the last inning or two."
But Mattingly said that doesn't mean "closer" Brandon League has necessarily lost his job.
"Brandon never scares me," Mattingly said. "He always comes back with a clean slate. It's a new day. He said he likes the ball more often, he needs to keep pitching."
Prospect Pederson turning heads within organization
ATLANTA -- Yasiel Puig fanatics won't want to hear this, but the Minor League outfielder that could get the next call-up is Puig's Double-A Chattanooga teammate, Joc Pederson.
"Let's put it this way: I've seen three series at Triple-A and three series at Double-A, and Pederson is the best Minor League player I've seen this year," said Pat Corrales, special assistant to the general manager.
Corrales has worked for Dodgers president Stan Kasten in Atlanta and Washington, so it's presumed his voice carries significant weight.
"He just does everything better than everybody else," said Corrales. "He makes adjustments at bat and in the field. He's an outstanding center fielder. He has a knack for seeing the ball off the bat: He lowers his head and he's off to get the ball. He's hitting home runs, he's hitting with men on base. There's nothing he isn't doing."
Corrales agreed that Pederson, the son of former Dodger Stu Pederson, is reminiscent of the father of current Dodger Scott Van Slyke.
"He is like Andy Van Slyke," Corrales said of the former All-Star, Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner. "Maybe a better runner than Van Slyke. He knows how to run the bases, how to read pitchers to steal a base. He's advanced for a player of his age."
Pederson is 21, drafted in the 11th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Palo Alto High School. He's 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, and bats and throws left-handed. He hit .313 with 18 homers, 96 runs scored, 26 steals and 70 RBIs last year at Class A Rancho Cucamonga. This year, he's hitting .347 with eight homers, 33 runs scored, 12 steals and 20 RBIs at Chattanooga.
Puig is the Dodgers' top-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com, while Pederson is ranked third.
• Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire missed Friday night's game to attend the high school graduation of his son in California, but is expected to rejoin the club Saturday night.
With McGwire out, assistant hitting coach John Valentin handled McGwire's duties.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.