On Thursday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly watched his team play yet another poor defensive game. On Friday, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp were sitting on the bench with him. Ramirez and Kemp each rank at or near the bottom in defensive ratings at their positions and have combined to make 11 of the Dodgers’ 39 errors this season. Mattingly said it was “just a day (off)” for Ramirez, who was spelled by Erisbel Arruebarrena, a 24-year-old Cubanmaking his major league debut. He did not say the same thing about Kemp. “Obviously center field has been a situation we continue to look at,” Mattingly said. “We need to get better there. We’re looking at all options.” The decision to start Andre Ethier over Kemp on Friday was particularly telling on the heels of comments Mattingly made following Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Mets. Kemp committed an error that led to an unearned run but also continued to struggle with his reads and routes to fly balls. “It doesn’t look the same,” Mattingly said of Kemp’s ability to cover ground in center field. “Just the burst, that kind of outrun-the-ball thing. … There’s no reports of him not feeling good or having any trouble in that area. We’re just not seeing that same burst and I don’t know if that’s just a matter of being out a few years. We’ll see.” Kemp acknowledged that his defense has been lacking and admitted that his left ankle has not completely returned to normal following microfracture surgery on the talus bone last October. “Do I feel the same? Man, I just need to play better defense,” Kemp said. “Ain’t no ‘burst’ or anything like that. “I wish I was explosive as I could be in the past. I have good days and bad days. Some days my ankle is looser than other days. Some days it’s a little stiff. I’m not hurt or anything. But you have those good days and bad days. That’s true for any baseball player. “Shoot – I wish I could go out there and steal 100 million bases like I used to. But like I said some days my legs – I don’t feel it as far as being loose. But the more I play, the more it gets better and better. I’m happy about that.” Kemp was obviously not happy about being out of the lineup and Mattingly said the two talked privately Friday afternoon. He would not specify what was discussed – nor was Mattingly willing to be drawn into a deeper discussion of Kemp’s defensive issues. But he did not offer much in the way of a defense, either. “Obviously I’m not going to come out here and tell you guys, badmouth anybody or say anything bad about guys if I don’t have to,” Mattingly said. “I’m going to protect guys and not try to embarrass them or anything like that. We put the lineup out and talk with guys about our situation and what we need to get better at. Then we go from there. “..., we’ve had a good long look (Kemp started 20 of the previous 25 games in center field). We want to continue to discuss our options and our situation – how do we get better, how do we improve – and then we’re going to try to put what we think is our best club right now on the field.” Mattingly acknowledged that defensive metrics like UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and D-WAR (defensive-WAR) do not reflect favorably on Kemp. “I’m not going to sit here and try to cut up a guy’s numbers or try to say anything bad about a guy,” Mattingly said when asked if he was aware of those statistics. “We’re going to continue to try to get the best out of everybody, look at our club, evaluate our club, put the best club on the field. I’m certainly not going to sit here and bash anybody or publicly go into the numbers. We know what they are, though.” Though Mattingly said “you know it’s in there somewhere” during his postgame comments Thursday, he would not specify Friday whether Kemp’s playing time will decline with Ethier presenting a better defensive option. When asked how he viewed Kemp’s role, Mattingly offered only, “as part of our team.”
Are Matt Kemp’s days as a regular center fielder numbered?
Orange County Register | May 24