With just 23 games left in the regular season, the Dodgers have the luxury of not forcing injured star Matt Kemp to rush back from a severe ankle sprain he suffered in mid-July.
Kemp rehabbed the ankle for five games with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and after going hitless and admitting he wasn’t comfortable at the plate, he’s taken his rehab to the Dodgers spring training facility.
In looking at injured players around baseball, ESPN.com analyst Buster Olney talked about how Kemp’s injury could change things for the Dodgers:
My own opinion: I don’t think the Dodgers have any real expectation that Kemp will represent an upgrade — in 62 games this season, he hit .263 with five homers in 251 plate appearances — and if he demonstrates in the final weeks that he can be better than one of the three other guys, well, then they’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Without Kemp in the lineup, Andre Ethier has filled in admirably and with four outfielders for three spots, manager Don Mattingly will have a tough decision to make.
However, with a 12-game lead in the NL West, Kemp could see regular playing time when he gets back as he looks to get his timing back with major league pitching. There are reservations that inserting him right into the lineup will mess up the chemistry, but Mattingly will have to mix and match.
This could also be a situation where Kemp and Ethier platoon as Ethier has struggled against lefties with a .226 batting average, while Kemp is a career .340 hitter against southpaws.
Carl Crawford could also see time off against lefties as he’s only hitting .208 against them, but depending on who’s hot, Mattingly can ride the hot hand. While I don’t see a scenario where Kemp becomes the everyday center fielder based on his track record, somebody won’t be happy with reduced playing time.
In case you missed it, be sure to find out more about the Michael Young trade!