Matt Kemp wants to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in 2011

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Matt Kemp went deep last night for the second straight game as the Dodgers swept the Rockies out of playoff contention and afterward he had the following exchange with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:

With his long and strikeout-filled season coming to a close, Matt Kemp started making bold predictions about next season. … When he was asked how many home runs he will hit, Kemp replied, “40.”

How many steals? “Forty,” he said.

Forty-forty? “I have to pay the fans back, man,” Kemp said. “They deserve it.”

Laughing, he added, “They’ve been mad at me all season. I have to do something for them, something special. We all do. Give them a little taste right now.”

Setting lofty goals can be a good thing–the guy is dating Rihanna, after all–but Kemp has never hit even 30 homers. And while he has swiped 30-plus bases twice, Kemp has just 19 steals this season and has been caught stealing 15 times. In other words, don’t count on 30-30, let alone 40-40.

Also worth noting is that this isn’t the first time Kemp has talked himself up as a 40-40 candidate. In fact, it isn’t even the first time he’s done so with Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. Here’s a similar exchange they had in March of 2009:

So will this be the year that Kemp puts up the kind of numbers that mirror his seemingly limitless ceiling? Can he hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases? “Sure,” he said. “I think I’m capable of doing something like that.”

Since then Kemp has 51 homers and 53 steals … in two seasons and 318 games.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.