He’s not happy, but what is Matt Kemp supposed to say?
Life’s unfair? The manager doesn’t have a clue? This is like some twisted joke?
“I just want to play, man,” Kemp said.
Manager Don Mattingly, since first coming out and acknowledging Kemp’s defensive play in center field was no longer acceptable, sat Kemp for the fourth consecutive game Monday.
He became the first of the Dodgers' Big Four outfielders -- Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Kemp -- to sit four consecutive games this season. And this one came against Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto, against whom he is six for 12 with two home runs.
Mattingly has said he wants Kemp to start practicing in left field and he said Monday that Ethier was now his main center fielder.
“I’m just here to play baseball, man,” Kemp said. “As long as I’m in the lineup, it doesn’t matter.”
But now he’s not in the lineup. And with Puig ensconced in right field, and Ethier mostly manning center, Kemp will have to split time with Crawford in left and hope to regain the team’s confidence to play some center.
This is clearly a situation still working itself out. If the Dodgers feel he’s a sub-par center fielder, there’s little reason to expect he’ll excel in left.
Mattingly said they wanted Kemp to feel comfortable playing in left field, so it could still be a few more days before he makes his first appearance there since 2006. He practiced there Monday for the first time.
Kemp is proud and said he still considers himself a center fielder, so the success in this transition – temporary or not – could well hinge on how he reacts to the change. Mattingly said he expects him to embrace it.
“I hope so,” Mattingly said. “I expect him to.”
Kemp had surgery on his left ankle in the off-season and Mattingly said he doesn’t currently have the same burst he had a couple years ago. Kemp maintains the ankle is fine.
“I’m healthy, man,” Kemp said. “I feel good. Like I said, I just want to play.”