Matt Kemp came to Don Mattingly's defense after questions surrounding… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
Matt Kemp came to Don Mattingly's defense Friday in light of the mounting speculation regarding the manager's job status.
"He doesn't go out there and hit for us, pitch for us, field for us, run for us," Kemp said. "It's not his fault that we're losing. It's the players."
The Dodgers are in last place in the National League West.
"All he can do is talk to us and help us out," Kemp said. "That's it."
As much as the Dodgers players like and respect Mattingly, Kemp said rumors about his possible dismissal wouldn't be a distraction. Over the winter, Mattingly asked for the Dodgers to pick up the 2014 option on his contract so that any talk about his job status wouldn't spill into the clubhouse.
"There's always some type of distraction," Kemp said. "We still go out there and try to play. We can't control anything that goes on off the field. The only thing we can control is on the field. We can't worry about that."
Meanwhile, Mattingly appeared to be in good spirits.
Asked about stories about him that appeared in recent days, he said, "I've enjoyed it. I haven't read it, so it's been great."
But he was aware the stories were out there.
"I have a lot of people calling me and supporting me and people sending me texts, which told me everyone was writing about it," he said.
One of the calls Mattingly received was from Joe Torre, for whom he was a coach with the Dodgers and New York Yankees.
Van Slyke is back
Scott Van Slyke has been granted another chance to prove he can play in the major leagues, as he was called up from triple-A Albuquerque to be a backup outfielder.
Van Slyke replaced utilityman Elian Herrera, who was sent back to Albuquerque three days after he was called up.
Van Slyke often looked overmatched in his 54 major league at-bats last season, as he batted only .167.
The son of former major league All-Star Andy Van Slyke, he was the Dodgers' minor league player of the year in 2011. But last winter, he was removed from the team's 40-man roster. He was moved from the outfield to first base and not invited to major league camp in spring training.
"Getting taken off the 40-man impacted me for a few days," Van Slyke said. "I was a little upset. But it ended up being a good thing. I worked out harder in the off-season. I hit more, took ground balls and did all the things I needed to do. I finally had more of a purpose for doing it this year, so my reps were better. I was determined to prove I deserved a chance to be here."
Van Slyke, 26, responded by tearing up the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. When he was called up, he was leading the league with a .397 average. His nine home runs and 32 runs were tied for the league lead.
He said he watched video of his major league at-bats and worked to make his swing more compact.
"My leg kick was out of whack, it was long," Van Slyke said. "My stride was long. My swing was long. I think I was just trying too hard."
Before he could be called up, Van Slyke had to play a few games in the outfield. He played the corner outfield positions in the three days leading up to his promotion.