LA prospects getting Major exposure

LA prospects getting Major exposure

TUCSON, Ariz. -- The occasional Spring Training split-squad game can give a few lower-profile kids in a Major League camp a little exposure, but with the Dodgers playing split-hemisphere games, a whole army of kids is getting some prime-time love.

Many Dodgers are in Taiwan, but the Cactus League waits for no one or nothing, not even for the globalization of the game.

So box scores for exhibition games this week have included the names of numerous prospects normally under the cover of Minor League camp in mid-March.

Among those getting a visitor's pass to the main stage have been third baseman Pedro Baez and outfielder Andrew Lambo -- both in the starting lineup for Saturday's exhibition here against the D-backs -- Brandon Watson, Jaime Pedroza and shortstop Dee Gordon, the Dodgers' Minor League Player of the Year.

"This is such a great experience," Gordon said after not getting to bat in the Dodgers' 7-3 defeat, but making a fabulous defensive play. "First and foremost, I want to have fun, and play the game the way I was taught."

Gordon is the son of longtime Major League reliever Tom Gordon, which made him one of several second-generation players on the Saturday scene. The family-tree special also included Ivan De Jesus Jr., Andy Van Slyke's son, Scott, and Preston Mattingly, son of the hitting coach and interim manager, Don.

The younger Mattingly has a .500 batting average next to his name after ripping a solid single up the middle in his first at-bat.

"It was awkward, but cool," Preston said of the hit with his father in the dugout, calling shots.

Countered the senior Mattingly, "It was nice, seeing where he's at after a winter of working with him. It was a little different [the perspective from the dugout], but I'm glad he got that hit. It'll help him."

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In January, the Dodgers host an orientation for top prospects they call their Winter Development Program, but could more appropriately call a That's Life in the Big City Program. Gordon and Lambo were among the futures working out at Dodger Stadium, taking in Lakers games, listening to John Wooden or Duke Snider, dining with Tom Lasorda.

The idea is to give them a sense of what it is like to play in a big league city. This week has given them a sense of what it is like to play on a big league field.

"It's just cool, pretty exciting," said Lambo, 21. "It's nice to be out there, feel the atmosphere, see my buds get some at-bats."

One of those buds was Van Slyke, a 23-year-old who at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds dwarfs his 6-foot-1 All-Star dad.

"It's always good to get out there with some of the players at the top of the game," Van Slyke said.

Merely a ceremonial cameo in the sun, or a chance to make an impression that can have consequences?

"Oh," Van Slyke said, "I've always been told there is always someone watching you, whether it's just one at-bat or one throw from the outfield."

Don Mattingly naturally works constantly with his son, but he hadn't seen him take swings since the winter prior to Saturday's pregame batting practice.

"He looked OK with everything. He's trying to get his rhythm with the bat," said Mattingly, for whom the experience of managing his kid was not unprecedented, but still special. "I had him in some split-squad game last year. But it's nice; it was great seeing him during BP."

In the fifth, Dad saw him in left field. Or should that be Lambo Field? Preston replaced his fellow apprentice, whose leadoff walk in the third inning had helped set up Blake DeWitt's three-run homer for the only Los Angeles scoring of the day.

The right-handed-hitting Mattingly turned Dad proud with his seventh-inning hit off Arizona lefty Leyson Septimo.

Stranded, he jogged to the dugout at the end of the inning and received a fist salute from Doug Mientkiewicz, while Dad stoically stood off to the side, preoccupied with setting the Dodgers defense taking the field.

"He's trying to win a game. He's got too many things to think about to worry about me," Preston said.

In the next locker, Van Slyke was having none of it. "C'mon, Preston ... he's your dad."

"You always get something out of every game you play," said Lambo, who grounded out in his other at-bat. "You get used to the flow of a Major League game."

Gordon's moment came in the bottom of the eighth, when he dove left to snare a line drive by Ed Rogers for the final out. The glove and the legs -- 73 steals with Class A Great Lakes last season makes him The Flash, compared to his dad's Flash Gordon -- are touted as his game, but the 21-year-old aspires beyond.

"I want my overall strength to be the total game," he said. "I'd like my key to be everything from leadership to being a good teammate."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Change for a Nickel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.