SAN DIEGO -- After two years in which he virtually disappeared, Juan Uribe has essentially won back the Dodgers' starting third base job he was signed to fill.
"We've seen a really different Juan Uribe offensively," said manager Don Mattingly. "He's more patient. This series, he's made great defensive plays. He catches everything. But he's kind of taken the lion's share of the at-bats there."
Uribe is batting .260 with three homers and 15 RBIs. Despite being robbed of extra bases by Chris Denorfia's diving catch on the warning track Saturday, Uribe's on-base percentage is .353, up from .258 last year and .264 in 2011. He has 20 walks in 54 games, compared to 30 walks in 143 games the previous two seasons combined.
Mattingly suggested that changing teams from the Giants to the rival Dodgers probably wasn't the easiest of moves for Uribe.
"That's a difficult transition, like going from the Red Sox to the Yankees. You try to fit in, but you're already one step behind the eight ball," he said. "He struggled, he got hurt. I'm happy for Juan. He's a really good teammate. Never a guy who, if you play somebody else, he makes that guy feel uncomfortable. He was really good to Luis Cruz [who took Uribe's job last year]. He cheers for his teammates. I'm happy he's turned that corner."
Over the final 34 games of last season, Uribe had only one plate appearance, a pinch-hit single. He finished the season batting .191.
Kemp has four K's, but runs well in rehab game
SAN DIEGO -- While cautioning not to overreact to Matt Kemp's four strikeouts Saturday night in the first game of his rehab assignment with Triple-A Albuquerque, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly also said Sunday that Kemp will be eased back into action upon his return.
Kemp went 0-for-5 as designated hitter, but also stole a base and scored from second on a single. He was scheduled to play the outfield Sunday, and Mattingly said Kemp would play at least one more game for the Isotopes, but his stint there could be extended if necessary.
"Is his timing back to game speed? It doesn't sound like it," said Mattingly. "But if it takes two, three, four games, or if it has to be five or six, just so when he comes back, he feels like he can be competitive."
Mattingly said Kemp would abandon a new set of contact lenses that bothered him in the game after using them successfully during an impressive batting practice session Thursday in San Diego. Mattingly said the carry and loft of Kemp's blasts Thursday were the best Kemp had shown in a while.
Mattingly said the reports were that Kemp ran well and willingly Saturday night, not favoring the right hamstring that has sidelined him for three weeks.
"The rehab is to make sure the leg is good and he doesn't come back, hit the ball and reinjure it," he said. "When Hanley [Ramirez] was out an extended time and first came back, he was physically cleared, but mentally, there is a lag to do things, not knowing if you'll bounce back. Eventually, you get to where you just play. Now he goes first to third, tries to steal a bag. We're still paying attention to him, like getting him out of the game yesterday for a couple innings was huge.
"We had to be careful, a day on and a day off. That was the plan to get him over the hump, and with Matt, I'm sure it will be the same type of thing. But I'm sure as his leg is feeling good, I expect Matt to be a little cautious, but it's not like he's not going to run at all. He'll be Matt."
Mattingly expects Van Slyke back in LA after rehab
SAN DIEGO -- Scott Van Slyke, on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque along with Matt Kemp, is expected to return to the Dodgers and not the Isotopes when he's healthy, manager Don Mattingly indicated Sunday.
"I think there's room for him," Mattingly said of Van Slyke, who hit only .221 in 24 games, but provided needed right-handed power with six homers and a .559 slugging percentage.
Van Slyke also provides some flexibility, because he can play both corner outfield spots and first base.
"We talk about Adrian [Gonzalez] playing every day, it wouldn't hurt for him to have a day [off at first base]," said Mattingly. "Or when we go with an all right-handed lineup, we can have Van Slyke, [Yasiel] Puig and Matt, three power guys. There's a benefit to it.
"Would he have as much playing time as before? That's not really what I think. But he hits lefties and has shown he can play defense at both corners. I think there's room for him."
Mattingly's disclaimer is that roster maneuvering, option consideration and other technicalities can often complicate personnel moves.
"But I feel like there is space," he said.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.