LOS ANGELES -- Apparently the Los Angeles Dodgers reached their breaking point with Matt Kemp’s iffy defense, because they went from starting him in five out of six games in center field to benching him in four straight.
On Monday, Kemp took balls before the game in left field as the team tries to transition him into a bench role filling in for Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier, who will be the primary center fielder for the time being, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Kemp is taking the change in roles in stride, at least for now. He admitted to being frustrated but wouldn’t offer much when asked if he felt he was being treated unfairly. Kemp is batting .264 and slugging .453. Ethier is batting .271 and slugging .368.
“Like I said, it doesn’t matter what I think,” Kemp said. “I just want to go out there and play baseball, man. That’s all that matters.”
Mattingly said the team believes Kemp’s ankle surgery in October has robbed him of some of his burst. In the past, Kemp’s speed allowed him to overcome poor reads and slow jumps. Kemp has a defensive WAR (wins above replacement) of minus-0.6 this season.
Mattingly was asked whether he was satisfied with Kemp’s effort in center field this season.
“I’m not getting into any of that,” he said. “You can never tell what a guy is feeling inside, but we feel this is the best thing for the ball club right now.”
Kemp last played left field in 2006. Mattingly said the team doesn't view Kemp strictly as a corner outfielder now. "It's a mixture," he said.