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Matt Kemp: “I’m not a fourth outfielder”

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Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has played in 179 of a possible 324 regular season games over the past two years due to [background changes from night to day, summer to winter while I recount] a strained left hamstring, a right knee contusion, a frayed labrum in his left shoulder (which required surgery in October 2012), inflammation of the AC joint in his left shoulder, a sprained left ankle, debridement of the AC joint in his left shoulder (required surgery in October 2013), and surgery to repair a bone spur, get rid of loose bodies, and heal a microfracture in the talus bone in his left ankle.

Manager Don Mattingly doesn’t believe Kemp will be ready for the Dodgers’ season opener against the Diamondbacks in Australia on March 22, according to MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick. Kemp hasn’t run yet on his surgically-repaired ankle. Thankfully for the Dodgers, they have three fully capable and healthy outfielders in Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Yasiel Puig. The more time Kemp misses, the easier it will be for the Dodgers — who still owe him $128 million through 2019 — to slide him into a bench role, and eventually pursue a trade.

According to ESPN’s Mark Saxon, Kemp says he “won’t accept that role”.

“I’m not a fourth outfielder. We can cut that off right there,” Kemp said. “I won’t accept that role. I can’t accept that role.”

We are moving into the third season since Kemp nearly won the NL MVP award, leading the league with 39 home runs and 126 RBI along with an impressive adjusted OPS of 172. He was even productive in 2012 as he succumbed to injuries, hitting .303 with a .906 OPS. But his numbers plummeted in 2013. His power vanished, he was essentially a non-factor on the bases, and his mastery of the strike zone weakened.

Kemp is still only 29 years old, and he very well may have plenty of productive seasons ahead of him if he can stay healthy. The Dodgers, well-constructed to stampede through the NL West, don’t need to wait to see if Kemp can handle the rigors of a 162-game season, though. As such, Kemp may end up a part-timer whether he likes it or not.

Mets leaning on Jay Bruce, Neil Walker as Lucas Duda insurance

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MAY 12:  Pinch hitter Lucas Duda #21 of the New York Mets walks back to the dugout after striking out for the first out of the ninth inning against Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  The Dodgers won 5-0.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.

Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”

Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”

The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.

Jason Kipnis diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians celebrates after scoring a run on a wild pitch thrown by Jon Lester #34 of the Chicago Cubs (not pictured) during the fifth inning in Game Seven of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.

There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.

Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.