The curious case of the Dodgers' Scott Van Slyke

The last time Scott Van Slyke put on a Dodgers uniform, Jerry Hairston was the No. 5 hitter. He’d hit cleanup the day before with Luis Cruz behind him.

Now he's back, and Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have returned to fill those voids in the heart of the Dodgers lineup. And Andre Ethier has resurrected his season at the plate too.

Van Slyke served as an incredibly efficient fifth and sixth hitter in 24 games before going on the 15-day disabled list with left shoulder bursitis June 11. He hit .333 (14 for 42) in 12 games combined in those slots, with all six home runs and 11 RBI he has this season.

Outside those batting positions? 1 for 26.

“There’s not so much pressure for you to produce,” Van Slyke said of batting farther down in the order, “so you play a little more free.”

Van Slyke was activated from the DL on Friday, but there's no chance he'll be seeing at-bats every day -- especially not in the fifth or sixth slots. Between Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Ramirez, Kemp and Ethier, they have those covered.

So where will Manager Don Mattingly find room for Van Slyke, who is clearly capable of contributing at the Major League level?

“I plan on using him more against lefties,” Mattingly said. “That’s pretty much how I see it. Using him against lefties a little bit, using him to give Adrian a day now and then and [as] a power guy off the bench.

“The battle will be to keep him sharp.”

Van Slyke does have slightly better numbers against southpaws, hitting .241 with three home runs and six RBIs in 32 plate appearances. His production numbers are similar against righties in 42 plate appearances, but his average (.205) and strikeouts (14 to 6) show a clear differential.

His opportunities now will be fewer, but Van Slyke said with the recent offensive surge, when those chances do arise, he expects to get them with runners on.

“I think that’s been the trend the last six days. There’s been guys on base. It takes one, two innings to get your runs, you get five or six and then you just go from there.

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