Kemp seeks to stay in this one position
The Dodgers invested $80 million in Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, in an expensive but ultimately futile search for an anchor in center field.
Pierre has been benched. Jones has been exiled to the Texas Rangers, with the Dodgers footing the bill. And, for the fifth consecutive season, the Dodgers will have a new center fielder on opening day.
“Hopefully, I’m not going anywhere,” Matt Kemp said.
Milton Bradley started in center field in the 2005 opener, followed by Jason Repko, Pierre and Jones, and today by Kemp. The Dodgers have not had the same opening-day center fielder for more than four consecutive seasons since Ken Landreaux (1981-86).
At 24, Kemp has the potential to be that anchor in center field.
“I’m excited,” he said. “I’ve worked real hard to get to this position. I’m still trying to establish myself in the big leagues.”
Kemp said he is particularly excited about following in the footsteps of longtime center fielders Mike Cameron, Ken Griffey Jr. and Torii Hunter.
“I’ve been watching them since I was a kid,” Kemp said. “Now a couple of them are my friends.”
And now he and Hunter are the center fielders for the two L.A. teams.
“That’s kind of cool,” Kemp said. “We’ll try to take over the city.”
Josh Lindblom was the closer at Purdue this time last year, but he so impressed the Dodgers that he could be pitching at Dodger Stadium sometime this season.
After Lindblom pitched four shutout innings in the Dodgers’ exhibition finale Sunday, a 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers sent him to double-A Chattanooga.
“I’ll make it here one day,” he said. “If it’s not today, that’s fine.”
Lindblom finished the spring with a 1.39 earned-run average, holding opponents to a .156 batting average. He will start at Chattanooga to maximize his innings, although the team has not determined whether Lindblom’s future is in the rotation or the bullpen.
Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said he told Lindblom the same thing he told Clayton Kershaw last spring: Go down and get some innings in. Torre said he would not hesitate to promote Lindblom to the major leagues this year, in his first full pro season.
“You hate to say that, because you don’t want him looking over his shoulder,” Torre said, “but I certainly wouldn’t be afraid to throw him out there.”
The Dodgers decided that Blake DeWitt, who started last season as the third baseman and ended last season as the second baseman, could play shortstop well enough to back up Rafael Furcal as needed. So they sent veteran infielder Juan Castro to the minor leagues Sunday, along with infielder Luis Maza and pitchers Tanyon Sturtze and Erick Threets.
That left Ronald Belisario, a 26-year-old right-hander who never pitched above double-A in six seasons in the Florida Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates organizations, as the last arm in the seven-man bullpen. Jonathan Broxton is the closer, with left-handers Hong-Chih Kuo and Will Ohman and right-handers Guillermo Mota, Cory Wade, Ramon Troncoso and Belisario.
The Dodgers’ bench includes catcher Brad Ausmus, outfielder Juan Pierre and infielders DeWitt, Mark Loretta and Doug Mientkiewicz.
Pitchers Jason Schmidt and Claudio Vargas and outfielder Delwyn Young are expected to start the season on the disabled list. The Dodgers delayed the official roster announcement until today to complete procedural moves involving the disabled list and 40-man roster.
The Dodgers face perhaps their least favorite pitcher today, as Jake Peavy draws the opening-day start for the San Diego Padres.
There are no players remaining on the Dodgers’ roster from the last time the Dodgers beat Peavy. That was on Sept. 13, 2003, when Kevin Brown was the winning pitcher and Shawn Green hit a two-run home run.
Peavy has not lost in 16 consecutive starts against the Dodgers since then, with an 11-0 record and 2.07 earned-run average.