PITTSBURGH >> Matt Kemp will make his 132nd career start in right field today. That’s quite a few starts, longer than many careers. By some advanced measures (namely, BIS Defensive Runs Saved Above Average), right field is Kemp’s best defensive position.
But his last start there was October 3, 2009. Kemp’s preparation for his latest position shift consists of shagging fly balls prior to today’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Without explicitly saying he had lowered expectations for Kemp in the field, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly lowered the expectations for Kemp in the field Monday.
“We really do make a big deal out of this and you know what? We don’t ask him to be perfect. We ask him to do his best,” Mattingly said. “If it’s not perfect, it’s not necessarily his fault.”
With Yasiel Puig missing his second straight game because of a swollen left hand, Andre Ethier is starting in center field and Carl Crawford in left. Ethier got the start in right field Sunday in St. Louis with Scott Van Slyke in center.
Kemp has now apparently been passed over by two players on the Dodgers’ center-field depth chart. That only exacerbates the wedge between his perception and the current reality. Friday in St. Louis, Kemp declared “I’m a center fielder.”
Mattingly ran out of words when pressed about Kemp’s chances of playing center field, dispatching the familiar “it is what it is” cliche.
“It’s like anything else,” Mattingly said. “It’s not the perfect situation.”