Matt Kemp’s Return Is A Success, Sort Of


Matt Kemp wants to play, so is it any surprise that he was fuming around the clubhouse when told that he wouldn’t be starting in the Dodger’s home opener Friday afternoon against the Giants? Yeah I would be pissed off too.

But that’s what happened on Friday afternoon before all of the Yasiel Puig drama. While Stacie and I were stuck in endless traffic, the Dodgers had released their initial lineup, which did not have Kemp’s name on it.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Kemp was not in the lineup, despite being told that he would be activated on April 4th. The Dodgers did activate him, but were not going to play him for some reason. My opinion is, Bison had a right to be angry. Why bother activating him if he’s just going to sit on the bench?

The Dodgers gave the reason that they wanted to “ease him in” to playing again, so to speak. Those are the words the club used when they told the former all-star center fielder that he would be playing Saturday instead of Friday. Kemp was livid.

I don’t blame him one bit. I’ve seen the Dodgers do this before with other players. They seem to like to not immediately start a player on their first day activated from the disabled list. But Kemp needed to play anyways, since he hadn’t played in a couple of weeks.

Kemp had been playing in minor league exhibition games at Camelback, but the minor league camps broke to start their respective regular seasons, and Kemp returned to the club. Since then he’s been sitting around the bench.

So it was no surprise when Kemp made a couple of miscues in center field in the Dodger’s 8-4 loss to the Giants on Friday afternoon. He was rusty, and he needs to play to alleviate that rustiness. But it all worked out for Kemp in the end anyways, because nobody could figure out where in the world Puig was.

During all the Kemp moodiness, the Dodgers were internally panicking as they were unable to get a hold of Puig for a few minutes. Finally Puig showed up about 20 minutes late to batting practice. So Don Mattingly benched him as punishment, and the new lineup that was released had Kemp in his familiar position in center field, and Andre Ethier in right field.

I had previously taken a look at how Kemp had fared in past return games from the DL. Normally he does pretty good in his first days back. How did he do on Friday?

Not bad, although a bit shaky at first. While Hyun-jin Ryu was having problems in the top of the first, allowing six runs in that frame, Kemp committed a costly error. His bobble on Michael Morse’s line drive single allowed practice swing boy to take second base. He was charged with an error on the play. he made a second miscue in the second inning, but was not charged with an error.

Look at those eyes and tell me if you could stay mad at him? No you could not-Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

In the top of the second, Kemp had trouble grabbing Brandon Hick’s long drive to center field. Kemp tried to make a leaping catch against the wall, but missed, and the ball hit the top of the wall, as Hicks wound up at second base.

At the plate, Kemp was 1 for 4 with an RBI double, a walk, and a run scored. In his first at-bat he flied out to right. In his second at-bat in the third, he drew a walk. In the bottom of the fifth, Kemp came up with Carl Crawford at second base, and smacked a double to left to score him.

In the sixth frame, Kemp whiffed swinging. In his final at-bat in the bottom of the ninth inning, he flied out to center.

When the Dodgers told Kemp he would be playing after all because of the whole situation with Puig, it put a big smile on his face. All in all I would say other than a couple of bumps in the road, Kemp’s return was a success. The Dodgers are a much better club with a healthy, happy, and productive Matt Kemp in the lineup. Now if only the Dodgers could figure out what to do with this Yasiel Puig kid.