Life without Matt Kemp, continued.
So now what? Now that the Dodgers are officially without the superstar center fielder, the man many were calling the best player in the game only two years ago.
Move on, mostly. Like they learned to do for most of the 2013 season, which is somewhat of a silver lining.
Kemp played in only 73 games in 2013, had only 263 at-bats. And the Dodgers took the National League West and finished with 92 wins.
“We’re going to miss him,” said shortstop Hanley Ramirez. “He’s part of our team. But at the same time, now you just have to keep going.”
It isn’t like the Dodgers don’t know how to win without him. They went on that 42-8 run without him. Stormed back from 12 games under .500 to seize division control without him.
Of course, back then they had Andre Ethier deftly slipping over from right to play a better center field than any imagined. Played it so well, some thought he performed better in center than Kemp.
Only there is no Ethier this time. Not one that’s expected back in center any time soon.
Ethier is out with his own ankle issue, a shin splint-like condition that makes it painful for him to run. And if you can’t run, as Manager Don Mattingly says, you can’t play.
Ethier has been back at the team’s training facility in Phoenix for the last week. He is expected to return Monday night, in time to attend the team’s Tuesday morning workout. Where he is still unlikely to run the bases.
Mostly the Dodgers are looking at him as a potential pinch-hitter, though if he gets on base, then you have to run for him, so he could cost your bench two players for one move.
No Kemp and Ethier, means utility man Skip Schumaker is likely to start in center. The only other option is Yasiel Puig, who plays it like he’s trying to kill off infielders. Carl Crawford has played center 51 times in his career, but none since his elbow surgery and none in the last five seasons.
Schumaker started the final three games of the 2011 World Series in center for the Cardinals, which they happened to win. So it’s not as though he doesn’t have postseason experience there, though he did hit .182.
Schumaker, like Ethier, is a left-handed batter who has hit .211 for his career against lefties (.300 vs. righties). Unlike Ethier, however, he has little power. Schumaker’s value is supposed to be as a super sub, not an everyday player.
Kemp said he and his bad ankle will go with the team on the road during the playoffs. Then will come his off-season, which will not only mean staying off his foot for at least a month, but surgery to clean up a shoulder AC joint.
“It’s going to be a pretty busy off-season for me,” Kemp said. “It’s going to be another tough one, but I promise the fans of L.A. that I will get back to form, to where I need to be so I can help this team win more games next year.”
Kemp seemed completely composed when he spoke to the media, but later as left the clubhouse on crutches, he stopped briefly to speak to Ramirez.
“He’s pretty upset,” Ramirez said. “He looked like he was going to cry. I know he loves this game so much, it’s not going to be easy. But we just have to go over there and take care of business.”
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