Matt Kemp to also play left field for Dodgers

Matt Kemp, who has struggled to rediscover the speed he had before undergoing off-season ankle surgery, could be starting in left field this week for the Dodgers.
(Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

Matt Kemp said in spring training he wasn’t a fourth outfielder. He also said he was a center fielder.

Now, neither statement might be accurate.

While Hanley Ramirez remained sidelined because of a strained left calf muscle, Kemp was preparing himself to start working out as a left fielder in the Dodgers’ upcoming homestand. Kemp will also take fly balls in center field.

Before Josh Beckett pitched a no-hitter Sunday in the Dodgers’ 6-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, Manager Don Mattingly talked about the team’s plans for Kemp. The game was the third in a row that Kemp didn’t start. Andre Ethier played in center field.

“We’re just feeling like giving him more time to really get healthy,” Mattingly said. “Not that he’s not healthy, but just to get all the way back. We feel it’s going to be best at this point to get work in left field, continue to center, as he kind of gets back to ... where he was a couple years ago.”

A few days before, Mattingly said Kemp wasn’t the same defensive player that won Gold Gloves in 2009 and 2011.


Kemp underwent an ankle operation in the off-season and Mattingly said he hasn’t observed the same burst of speed since.

Kemp can no longer outrun his mistakes, as he once did. Although Ethier isn’t nearly as fast as Kemp, he reads the ball better off the bat and runs more efficient routes.

Of Ethier, Mattingly said, “You’d like a guy with another step, but the routes he runs makes up for that half-step or step he’s missing.”

With Kemp no longer an everyday player, the only outfielder expected to be in the lineup on a daily basis is right fielder Yasiel Puig. Kemp, Ethier, Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke will share playing time in the other two positions.

Kemp will work out in left field before playing there.

“I don’t want to put him in a bad spot from the standpoint of not being out there,” Mattingly said. “We want to get him some work there so he’s comfortable in that spot.”

Kemp has not played any position other than center field since 2009, when he played seven of 159 games in right field. The last time he played left field was as a rookie in 2006.

As for Ramirez, Mattingly said, “It doesn’t sound very good.”

Ramirez was unavailable to start or pinch-hit for the second consecutive game. He didn’t start Friday in the series opener against the Phillies but pinch-hit.

Asked whether Ramirez could land on the disabled list, Mattingly replied, “I don’t want to go there yet.”

Mattingly said he assumed Ramirez would undergo an MRI exam.

With Ramirez unavailable, Cuban rookie Erisbel Arruebarrena has started the last three games at shortstop.