Tony Gwynn Jr. steals third base during a game against the San Francisco… (John G. Mabanglo / EPA )
This last off-season was the first that Tony Gwynn Jr. didn't have his father there, teaching him the finer aspects of baseball.
Then, Tony Gwynn, the San Diego Padres Hall of Famer, was battling cancer in a salivary gland along the jaw, and undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
Gwynn Jr. didn't care about baseball, though. And the 28-year-old outfielder's release from the Padres in December — what he called the "low point" of his baseball career — didn't matter, either.
His father, who also coached him in college at San Diego State, was what mattered.
Still, Gwynn Jr. said the absence of his father's guidance actually helped him revive his career with the Dodgers this season.
"Not having his voice there to correct things was tough at times," Gwynn Jr. said before Monday's game against Colorado, "but, at the same time, it made me stronger because I had to rely on the stuff he taught me before."
Known more for his defense, Gwynn Jr. entered Monday batting .324 (24 for 74) in 20 games since June 26, raising his average from .205 to .256, and he ranked second on the club with 14 stolen bases.
This is after he hit .204 last season, when the Padres didn't tender him a contract and he became a free agent.
The Dodgers signed him to a one-year deal worth $675,000, a considerable raise from $419,800 last season in San Diego.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said he didn't know what to expect from Gwynn Jr. this season. He'd seen him only in small doses with the Padres.
"Defense, I knew he was good — and he's almost been better," Mattingly said.
With the bat, Mattingly said, Gwynn Jr. has been more consistent. Gwynn Jr. said that's the aspect of his game he worked on most.
He also praised Dodgers hitting instructor Dave Hansen, who was promoted to interim hitting coach to replace the recently fired Jeff Pentland.
"He speaks my language more, hitting-wise," Gwynn Jr. said, "because he talks in mechanics a lot of times — and that's how my dad talks."
Mattingly said second baseman Juan Uribe will probably undergo an MRI test Tuesday for the lower abdominal injury that has kept him out of the starting lineup for two straight games.… A report citing an anonymous source claimed Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, the focus of much trade speculation, would consider waiving his no-trade clause if he were traded to the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. Kuroda seemed puzzled but neither confirmed nor denied the report before Monday's game. In an email, Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti stated, "Hiroki has asked that all conversations between Hiroki, his representatives and the Dodgers remain confidential." Kuroda (6-12, 3.19 earned-run average) is scheduled to start Wednesday against Colorado.