Matt Kemp still isn’t comfortable, may not return on Monday

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Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp made his second rehab start with Rancho Cucamonga yesterday, but still doesn’t feel comfortable yet, reports Bill Shaikin. Kemp has been sidelined since July 22 with a sprained ankle.

The hope was that Kemp would make a few rehab starts and be ready to return to the Dodgers after this weekend, but it sounds like Kemp will need some more time. He is 0-for-8 thus far and has driven a ball out of the infield on only one occasion.

Kemp, the runner-up to Ryan Braun in the 2011 NL MVP balloting, has been on the disabled list three times this season. The first, between May 30 and June 25, was due to a strained right hamstring. The second, between July 6-21, was due to inflammation of the AC joint in his right shoulder. The third, of course, is the continuing issue with the ankle. When he has been on the field, he posted a .700 OPS in 251 trips to the plate.

Manager Don Mattingly said that, when Kemp returns, he will not be used on an everyday basis.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.