It’s no shame to go hitless against Madison Bumgarner on a night like he had last night. And slumps certainly happen. But Matt Kemp is in a pronounced slump right now, and with the Dodgers sliding out of first place after last night’s loss to San Francisco, they need him to figure it out.
Kemp is 0 for his last 19 and his OPS has dipped below 1.000 for the first time since the fifth game of the season. Last night he struck out with a runner on third in the sixth inning — Shane Victorino got there by stealing both second and third — to end what amounted to the Dodgers best scoring threat. Kemp was clearly frustrated at the strikeout, feigning throwing his bat and then starting to break it over his knee but thinking better of it.
Kemp is obviously still having a great year — he’s hitting .333/.402/.596 — but the Dodgers are going to need him to heat back up if they want to keep pace with the Giants.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.