Don Mattingly knows his battles with Matt Kemp loom, and soon too.
Kemp is expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, and Mattingly is confident that if his center fielder is ready to play, he’ll be ready to play every day.
Only there’s the rub. Kemp likes to play every game, but that is no longer part of Mattingly’s plans.
When Kemp sat out the May 14 game with his sore hamstring, it snapped a streak of having played in 399 consecutive games.
The streak was apparently important to Kemp, and transversely, to Mattingly. Even in those very rare games that Kemp did not start, Mattingly was careful to get him a pinch-hit appearance.
But from now on, Mattingly said Kemp has to be prepared to sit out an occasional game. No streak means no pressure to play him every day.
“I think it makes it easier to say, ‘Matt, we need to give you a day. It’s the right day. We’re going to take care of you,’” Mattingly said. “At that point, I know he’ll fight me, but at that point I’ll probably play my manager card.”
That actually works?
“He probably has more juice than me,” Mattingly said, laughing.
No Dodger has played every game this season. Andre Ethier started the first 43 games until finally getting a full day off Wednesday in Arizona. James Loney has also appeared in 44 of the Dodgers’ first 45 games, but started only 35.
Kemp, of course, took some personal pride in being willing and able to play every game. Which was probably one of the reasons why he wasn’t placed on the DL when he originally injured his hamstring.
“He doesn’t like coming out; he doesn’t like sitting,” Mattingly said.
Last year, Kemp appeared in every game, though he did not start in 12.