LOS ANGELES -- For five days in a row, Don Mattingly has dismissed Casey Blake's stiff neck as a minor injury.
For five days in a row, however, the Dodger third baseman has been out of the starting lineup.
On Wednesday, he will receive a cortisone injection after the game in the hopes of being ready to play by Friday. Mattingly had talked about using Thursday's off-day as an extra day of rest for Blake.
But despite Blake's absence from the lineup, he is still available off the bench. When asked about a possible DL stint, Mattingly dismissed it, saying that Blake can be used off the bench (he pinch hit in the ninth inning Tuesday), and if needed, he can play first base because he wouldn't need to make the throw across the diamond.
As for a pair of injured bullpen arms currently rehabbing, Kenley Jansen and Hong-Chih Kuo are expected to make appearances today.
There is still no timetable for Kuo, who was placed on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. But Mattingly said that he's hoping this is Jansen's final rehab appearance, and that he could be back as soon as Friday.
Gordon possesses baseball IQ beyond years
LOS ANGELES -- At surface level, Dee Gordon's game appears reckless.
In the rookie shortstop's mind, however, it's all calculated.
Gordon is a student of the game, and he has what manager Don Mattingly calls "an understanding of his speed." It's just one of the many facets of his game that he is constantly trying to improve.
With infielders Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles -- who have a combined 19 years of big league experience -- there to help him, Gordon is taking full advantage.
"We talk about the game, we talk about the infield, we talk about pretty much every play that we have," Gordon said. "We talk about everything. These guys are two of the best guys ever. They've taken me in."
Gordon is all ears at shortstop when one of the veteran second basemen tells him where to play or how to adjust during the game. That led both Mattingly and Miles to liken him to a sponge.
So far, Miles has been very impressed with what he's seen in Gordon's game. But perhaps more indicative of Gordon's future success, Miles said, is his constant willingness to learn.
"It's a process of becoming a big league ballplayer, and having what I like to call 'a big league brain'," Miles said. "He works hard at that right now."
Miles pointed to Monday when he hit a shallow fly ball with Gordon on third. Gordon noticed that Reds left fielder Chris Heisey catching the ball on his heels, and he broke for home, scoring despite a perfect throw.
"That's a great instinct for a young guy to have, that thought process in his head for that play," Miles said. "He's gonna be a very instinctive and smart player once he gets that experience under his belt."
Mattingly, who has said that Gordon is only in the big leagues because of injuries, compared his instincts, his body and his defensive range to Omar Vizquel. The difference, Mattingly said, is that Gordon has more of a speed factor.
With a pair of veteran middle infielders helping Gordon, Mattingly is confident that he'll continue to develop. But that's simply what Mattingly expects out of two of his clubhouse leaders. What's more important is that Gordon is willing to listen to them.
"When a guy doesn't want to listen to the older guy, the older guy at that point is gonna let him do his thing," Mattingly said. "But when you get a kid who wants to learn and wants to get better, usually guys want to help a kid get better and see him do well."
Mattingly encouraging team to keep plugging
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly was impressed with his team's work ethic in Spring Training. He was impressed with its work ethic in the early season. He's still impressed, though the Dodgers are seven games under .500 in mid-June.
That's what's most frustrating.
"You keep getting ready, you keep playing hard, and if you're not getting the results it's discouraging," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said that the message he is trying to convey to his team is to keep plugging and the results will turn.
"I've said it 100 times, but we're in every game," he said. "You've got to keep believing that this thing is gonna turn. You have to have that feeling inside that this is gonna change. But it's gonna take everybody."
One notable slump during the Dodgers recent struggles is that of Andre Ethier. He has two hits in his last 21 at-bats.
Mattingly said that Ethier is simply in a funk, one that every player goes through during the course of the season. He pointed to former teammate Wade Boggs' ability to work counts, draw walks and fight off singles as the ideal mentality that a player should have in that situation.
"The guys that are at the top of the game, they're the ones that keep those struggles short and don't let one game turn into the next," Mattingly said. He believes that his right fielder is, indeed, at the top of his game. Ethier, however, said he has struggled in the past with overthinking. Recently, too, Mattingly said he has noticed Ethier chasing pitches that he usually wouldn't.
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.