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.