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Matt Kemp needs to stow the big proclamations and just play

The Dodgers’ biggest talking point this spring, and throughout the season until injury calls, is how they’re going to juggle four quality outfielders every game.

Nice luxury, they’ll argue. Anyway, they hope. If all four – Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig – remain healthy, it’s vital the four buy in to the sharing plan. Attitude is paramount.

Crawford, in a story by The Times' Dylan Hernandez on Sunday, had this to say about the situation:

“We could all start for any other team. But we've been hit with the injury bug, so you can't really look at it as a bad thing for the team. We might need all four of us. I'm sure whoever's playing best is going to play. It's really simple.

“We all have bigger a goal of trying to get to the World Series. Having four outfielders is something we really shouldn't be worried about.”

Kemp, in a Hernandez story the previous day, said:

“I’m not a fourth outfielder. We can cut that question off right now. That’s the last question you have to ask me. I’m not a fourth outfielder. I’m not going to be a fourth outfielder. I’m here to help my team win and play every day. We can stop right there.”

Now which quote sounds as if it’s coming from the mature player who puts the team first and which from the player a tad too wrapped up in himself?

No doubt all four believe they should be an everyday player. They’re all making tons of money. The three veterans are all former All-Stars and Puig was nothing less than a sensation when he came up last summer.

But clearly, one is going to have to sit every game that’s not inner-league play. The prudent thing here is to work hard, play to the best of your ability and see how things shake out.

It’s not to be making egotistical proclamations about being a fourth outfielder. As stated earlier, if Kemp plays anywhere near the player he was in 2011, he won’t have to worry about it, won’t have to be making unnecessary edicts. His play will say he has to be on the field.

Of course, for the last two seasons he’s been riddled with injuries. His last came via another brain cramp, cost him the postseason and possibly the Dodgers a trip to the World Series. Right now, he just has to prove he’s healthy and play. Currently, he can’t run following major off-season ankle surgery.

The Dodgers have an excellent opportunity to make it to the World Series, and that should be the entire focus. Not worrying about playing time in February and declaring you’re too great to be a part-time player.

In the end Kemp, and the other three, are exactly what Manager Don Mattingly says they are.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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