Scott Van SlykeA year ago Los Angeles Dodgers utility player Scott Van Slyke wasn’t even in major league camp. Fast forward 12 months and manager Don Mattingly hinted that he’s a lock to make the team out of camp the lock.

With news that third baseman Juan Uribe won’t backup Adrian Gonzalez at first base, Van Slyke becomes the primary backup while he’s the current fourth outfielder while Matt Kemp recovers from ankle surgery. After the intrasquad game this morning, manager Don Mattingly had high praise for Van Slyke via Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com:

He did a lot for us last year. It’s what we looked for last year; we came into Spring Training looking for that right-handed extra outfielder that could spell us in different spots, Mattingly said. He seemed to step up and take over that role.

Last season, Van Slyke was up and down between the big club and Triple A, but managed to have one great moment with the Dodgers. On September 10, with the Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks knotted at three and in extra innings, he managed to hit a 1-0 pitch from Josh Collmenter down the left field line for a walkoff home run.

In 53 games last season, the Missouri native hit .240 with seven home runs and 19 RBI as 15 of his 31 hits went for extra bases. Mattingly alluded to wanting to give Gonzalez more days off in 2014 and among the utilityman group, he’s played the most games at first base. Justin Turner Brendan Harris and Miguel Rojas have all played there, but only a handful of games.

Kemp’s injury also makes Van Slyke’s presence more important as he’ll be counted on to fill-in when Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier need a day off. While the Dodgers still have decisions to make up the middle, it sounds like Van Slyke can rest easy that he’ll be part of the 25-man roster.

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