Benched yesterday for a fourth straight game, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp told Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times: “I just want to play, man.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been mixing and matching outfielders all season because he has Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier to play and only three spots in which to play them, but Kemp is the first guy in that group to sit out four consecutive games.
He’s definitely been benched and Mattingly has cited his poor defense in center field as a big reason, although there’s always the option of shifting Kemp to a corner spot to keep his bat in the lineup considering he has a higher OPS than Crawford or Ethier. And of course the fact that Kemp has a $160 million contract further complicates matters.
It sounds like Crawford and Kemp may form a quasi-platoon in left field, which is a helluva way to spend $300 million. And in the meantime Ethier is Mattingly’s choice to start in center field despite the fact that he’s very stretched defensively there. Sometimes having tons of money and tons of outfielders isn’t such a good thing.
Clayton Kershaw had nothing left to prove when he exited the mound during his last Cactus League start on Friday. He finished camp with a 0.00 ERA, made all the more impressive after he extended his scoreless streak to 21 1/3 innings following 6 2/3 frames of one-hit ball against the Royals.
In six spring training starts this year, the Dodgers southpaw racked up 12 hits, four walks and 23 strikeouts. His velocity appeared to fluctuate between the high-80s and low-90s from start to start, but manager Dave Roberts told reporters that he expects Kershaw to get back up to the 93 m.p.h. range next week. Kershaw is tabbed for his eighth consecutive Opening Day start on Thursday.
The 30-year-old lefty is poised to enter his 11th season with the club in 2018. He went 18-4 in 27 starts last year and turned in a 2.31 ERA, 1.5 BB/9 and 10.4 SO/9 over 175 innings. He suffered his fair share of bumps and bruises along the way, including a lower back strain that required a five-week stay on the disabled list.
The Dodgers will open their season against the Giants on Thursday, March 29 at 7:08 PM ET. Given the sudden rash of injuries that hit the Giants’ rotation earlier today, Kershaw’s Opening Day opponent has not yet been announced.