The Los Angeles Dodgers haven’t played one Cactus League game this spring and Opening Day of the 2015 season is still five weeks away, but the excitement of a new season being on the horizon is palpable.
On top of the general enthusiasm that comes with the start of a season, this year’s Opening Day comes with something extra as the Dodgers will play host to the San Diego Padres. That of course coincides with Matt Kemp’s first time back at Chavez Ravine.
While the Dodgers have yet to name their Opening Day starter or set the rotation, it’s safely presumed Clayton Kershaw will take the mound in one of the three games against the Padres. When asked about the possibility of facing Kershaw by ESPN’s Sara Walsh, Kemp said he’s looking forward to going head-to-head against his former teammate:
For sure. I mean, I think I faced Clayton maybe one time in Spring Training during live batting practice. It will be good to get out there and see what I can do against one of my former teammates and somebody I considered a friend.”
Although he’ll be in a different uniform for the first time, Kemp intimated the Dodger Stadium setting and atmosphere will be one he’s comfortable with:
I’ve had quite a few Opening Days in Dodger Stadium. It’s probably one of the best Opening Days in baseball as far as stadium wise. The fans there are crazy, they get excited, it’s going to be electric. I can’t wait to play against my team, my former team, and see what we can do.”
Drafted by the Dodgers in 2003, Kemp played nine seasons in the Majors with the club. His breakout year came in 2011 when he hit .324/.399/.586 with 39 home runs and 126 RBIs in 161 games played, and finished as the runner-up to Ryan Braun in MVP voting.
Kemp’s career was then thrown off course by multiple injuries and he struggled to regain form. Despite recapturing his swing in and emerging as one of the game’s best hitters during the second half of last season, Kemp deemed expendable in a crowded outfield by the Dodgers’ new front office.
Not one to lack confidence, Kemp recently shared his belief that the Padres boast the best outfield in baseball.
Assuming the Dodgers stick with their traditional No. 1 through No. 3 starters for the series against the Padres, Kemp’s only prior experience is against Zack Greinke, whom he only has one hit against in six plate appearances. Kemp is a career .286/.341/.500 hitter in 567 games at Dodger Stadium.
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