With the losses of Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez during the offseason, two bats that are capable of hitting the long ball at any given time, the Los Angeles Dodgers have two middle-of-the-order slots to fill.
They acquired the likes of Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick and Jimmy Rollins, but none of them are prototypical home run hitters. While Kendrick figures to spend plenty of time hitting from the middle of the order this season, manager Don Mattingly isn’t expecting him to be a home run hitter, according to Pedro Moura of the OC Register:
I don’t even think about homers,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said regarding Kendrick. “I just know he can hit. He swings the bat. He’s consistent. He drives in runs. He gets on base. He’s a gap-to-gap guy, that’s for sure. He uses the whole field. I never looked at him as a big home run guy. I always looked at him as a really good hitter.”
In nine Major League seasons, Kendrick has hit more than 10 home runs in a season just twice, with his career-high being 18. Last season, he hit just seven homers with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, but was still able to drive in 75 runs. Kendrick started 39 games batting in the clean-up slot, and thrived, hitting .320 with 28 RBIs, and has said he’s comfortable batting anywhere in the order.
While the Dodgers acquired the 31 year old in large part for his veteran leadership and defense, the success of the team could depend on Kendrick’s ability to drive in runs and fill the offensive void that’s been left.
Kendrick has had success so far this spring, as he is 8-for-22 (.364) with six RBIs. He also proved that though it may not be his forte, there’s plenty of home run power in his bat with a towering shot to dead center field against the Texas Rangers.
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