As the Dodgers enjoy the best stretch of any major league team in 62 years, Matt Kemp is on the disabled list for the third time this season. The Dodgers are not sure when he might return, but Kemp said he would fit in perfectly fine when he does.
“I don’t need to fit in anywhere,” Kemp said Wednesday. “My job is to play center field.
“Do you think I’m going to come in and mess up the chemistry? The only thing I’m going to do is make the team better. I’m not going to make the team worse.”
The Dodgers are 30-29 when Kemp starts, 39-21 when he does not. He is batting .263, with a .319 on-base percentage and five home runs in 62 games.
As the Dodgers succeed with Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig as starting outfielders, Kemp said there is plenty of room for him to contribute.
“I’d rather have four great outfielders than two great outfielders or three great outfielders,” Kemp said. “If one person is struggling a little bit, you’ve still got somebody who can come in and produce.”
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly agreed, saying Kemp’s return would enable him to keep all four outfielders fresh and use the most favorable matchups in the starting lineup.
Mattingly said the idea that Kemp should stay on the bench because the Dodgers were winning with the current roster made no more sense than saying Nick Punto should remain at shortstop over Hanley Ramirez, who is in the starting lineup Wednesday for the first time in nine days.
“No,” Mattingly said. “You put Hanley back in there.”
Mattingly said Friday that he estimated Kemp would return from a sprained ankle in 10 to 14 days. That would be five to nine days now, and Mattingly conceded his timetable might be too optimistic.
“I’m keeping my track record good,” Mattingly joked. “I’m missing another one.”
It is possible the Dodgers wait to activate Kemp until rosters expand Sept. 1.