For Matt Kemp, being in left field beats being left out
Playing in his home stadium Wednesday night, Matt Kemp was on foreign land.
Kemp was in left field.
“Weird, you know?” Kemp said. “Different.”
The last time he was there was as a 21-year-old rookie in 2006.
For the most part, the Dodgers’ 3-2 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds was relatively uneventful for Kemp, who was starting in place of a sidelined Carl Crawford.
Todd Frazier smashed a line drive over his head in the sixth inning that few left fielders would have caught. Frazier doubled and later scored on a wild pitch by Clayton Kershaw to extend the Reds’ lead to 3-1.
The only ball hit to him before that was in the first inning, when Frazier doubled into the left field corner. Kemp did what he was supposed to do, collecting the ball and throwing it back to the infield.
Kemp fielded another ball hit into the corner in the seventh inning, a double by Billy Hamilton.
At the plate, Kemp was 0 for 4 with two strikeouts.
His body language was noticeably downcast.
He rarely smiled. He barely interacted with his teammates.
Kemp used to pride himself on playing center field, one of baseball’s glamour positions. But he was told by Manager Don Mattingly last week he would no longer be the team’s everyday player there.
He had been limited to two pinch-hitting appearances since last Thursday, and might not played Wednesday if Crawford was healthy.
“You’ll never know,” Mattingly said. “Carl got hurt.”
Kemp started taking fly balls at his new position Monday.
“It’s a little different,” Kemp said. “Just angles and slices and all that. I’ll figure it out.”
He hasn’t had much time. Crawford sprained his left ankle Tuesday night.
“I think I’m still a pretty good athlete,” Kemp said. “I think I’ll be OK.”
This day was as difficult for Kemp as it was wonderful for Jamie Romak.
Called up from triple-A Albuquerque to replace Crawford on the active roster, the 28-year-old Romak was in a major league clubhouse for the first time.
He played 1,069 minor league games over 12 seasons waiting for the call he received Wednesday morning from Albuquerque Manager Damon Berryhill.
Asked what that moment was like, Romak couldn’t produce an answer.
He laughed again.
“This is how I answered the phone,” he said. “I didn’t know what to say. Nothing really came out. I thought he was messing around with me.”
“Once I sunk in, it was really emotional,” he said. “I couldn’t get ahold of my wife, but I called my mom. She started crying and I started tearing up. It was everything you’d wish it would be.”
Romak, who was born and raised in Canada, played primarily third base at Albuquerque. He can also play first base, as well as right and left field.
He made his major league debut, pinch-hitting for Clayton Kershaw in the seventh inning and grounding out to second base.
The Dodgers promoted Romak instead of their top prospect, Joc Pederson.
The 22-year-old Pederson was batting .347 with 15 home runs and 32 runs batted in through Tuesday.
“We don’t feel like it’s the right time right now for Joc,” Mattingly said. “You don’t want to bring up a kid that’s developing and not play him every day.”
Shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena is also developing as a player, but Mattingly indicated he could remain in the major leagues even though Hanley Ramirez has returned to the lineup.
“I think the one thing you like about Erisbel is that you have a true backup shortstop,” Mattingly said. “Erisbel gives us the option to give Hanley a day [off].”
Arruebarrena could also replace Ramirez late in a game to protect a lead late, said Mattingly.
“I don’t want to knock Hanley, but the kid’s special at short,” Mattingly said.
He compared Arruebarrena’s defense to Gold Glove winner Andrelton Simmons’. As for Arruebarrena’s growth as an offensive player, Mattingly said, “There’s development that goes on here, just like there would be down there.”
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