Here’s how much Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is committed to keeping Matt Kemp from playing center field: Not only is Mattingly regularly playing Andre Ethier there despite his clearly being stretched range-wise, yesterday Scott Van Slyke got the nod in center field while Kemp remained in left field.
Van Slyke is 27 years old and it was the first time he’s ever started a game in center field as a big leaguer. Even in the minors he rarely played center field, spending much more time in the corner spots and at first base. In fact, last time Van Slyke played center field in the minors was way back in 2010 at Double-A.
Kemp has nearly 7,000 career innings in center field, but to keep from using him there now Mattingly is willing to make Ethier his everyday center fielder and use a career-long left fielder/first baseman like Van Slyke in center field.
Mattingly predictably explained the decision by saying that he wants to give Kemp time to get comfortable as a regular left fielder rather than moving him back and forth, but … still. Ethier is perhaps a passable center fielder if you squint very, very hard, but Van Slyke in center field isn’t even squint-able.
Royals’ Opening Day starter Danny Duffy weathered a minor scare during Saturday’s Cactus League game against the Diamondbacks. The left-hander was removed from his final spring training start after experiencing some left shoulder tightness in the second and third innings. No lasting damage appears to have been done — Duffy told reporters that he simply felt a slight ache, nothing more — and it looks like he’ll remain on track to open the season with the team next Thursday.
The 29-year-old southpaw is coming off one of his best performances to date. Despite losing a few weeks to an oblique strain and elbow soreness, he went 9-10 in 24 starts and finished the 2017 season with a 3.81 ERA, 2.5 BB/9 and 8.0 SO/9 over 146 1/3 innings. While Duffy entered camp with a clean bill of health, he struggled to execute against his spring training opponents and racked up 13 runs, four homers, seven walks and 11 strikeouts in 13 innings of Cactus League play.
The Royals are scheduled to kick off their home opener against the White Sox on Thursday, March 29 at 4:15 PM ET. Barring any further complications with his shoulder, Duffy will take the mound for the Royals, while James Shields is expected to make his first Opening Day appearance for the White Sox.