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.

Aaron Judge exits game with left oblique injury

Aaron Judge
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Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge was shaken up during Saturday’s 9-2 win over the Royals. The slugger appeared to tweak his left side after hitting a single off of Glenn Sparkman in the sixth inning, and was wincing in pain as team trainers attended to him. Per an official announcement from the club, he sustained a left oblique injury and will undergo an MRI at the New York Presbyterian Hospital this afternoon.

While it’s not yet clear how long Judge will be out of commission, it’s a worrying injury given his history. The 26-year-old outfielder was similarly sidelined in 2016 after a right oblique strain brought an abrupt end to his first MLB call-up, and missed significant time again in 2018 after fracturing his right wrist. It’s also a blow to the Yankees, who currently have a dozen players nursing injuries from bone spurs to rotator cuff issues on the injured list.

Prior to Saturday’s incident, Judge went 2-for-4 with a first-inning home run and a base hit, adding to a healthy .288/.404/.521 batting line and running total of five homers, 11 RBI, and a .925 OPS through his first 89 plate appearances of 2019. He was replaced by infielder/outfielder Tyler Wade, who stepped in to pinch-run in the sixth and returned at the top of the seventh to assume Judge’s post in right field.