When the whole “Matt Kemp is moving to left field” business went down, I think we all thought that he’d return to center against lefties, since Andre Ethier would be taking a seat. The first time the Dodgers faced a lefty, Francisco Liriano, Ethier still inexplicably played. Tonight, the Dodgers welcome the White Sox and another lefty, Jose Quintana, and there’s welcome news: Ethier is sitting. Kemp is in the lineup, along with Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke.
Kemp isn’t playing center. Neither is Puig. Van Slyke is. Hold your loved ones.
This is, needless to say, Van Slyke’s first start in center field in the big leagues, and potentially ever. Of his 784 career minor league games, only 35 were in center, but A) the game logs don’t include whether those were starts, full games, or just brief cameos, and B) All but two came between 2005-2008. He’s played three innings there this season, and got out there briefly in the 13th inning of Game 1 of the NLCS. He’s a decent first baseman and a moderately unoffensive corner outfielder, but his biggest weakness is his speed, by which I mean, he has no speed. The Dodger outfield is already one of the six worst as far as range goes, and now Clayton Kershaw gets to deal with this.
I should add, I suppose, that we’ve known for years that Kemp is a lousy center fielder. I’m just not sure that putting an inexperienced, slow, 6-foot-5 bench player is a better option. Davey Lopes is on record as saying that he thinks Van Slyke can play center. I guess we’ll find out tonight. Lord help us all.