Dodgers @ Diamondbacks April 11, 2014: The Return of the Puig

puig_yasiel_st 3.13.14

Puig will start for the first time since April 2. (By: Dustin Nosler)

After splitting a 2-game series with the Tigers, the Dodgers (6-4) travel to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks (4–8). We all know what happened last time these two teams met in Arizona — the Dodgers clinched the National League West title for the first time since 2009.

Yes, the Dodgers, behind a strong bullpen performance and home runs from Hanley Ramirez (two) and A.J. Ellis helped to clinch. The Dodgers then celebrated in the Chase Field swimming pool — something that pissed off seemingly everyone in Arizona. Oh, then they allegedly peed in said pool.

Chase Field - Flickr Ryan Leighty

Hope that pool is clean. (via)

Much was made about this situation (which I refuse to call “poolg–e,” mostly because the term is idiotic), but the fact of the matter is: if the D-Backs didn’t want the Dodgers celebrating in their pool, they should have played better baseball. For everyone’s sake, I hope there’s no retaliation tonight for the Dodgers, because the Dodgers will likely have to retaliate, leading to a surefire brawl — something neither team needs right now.

The two clubs met in Sydney in the last couple weeks of March to play the opening series. The Dodgers won both games, but lost Clayton Kershaw for at least a few weeks, but more likely a month or two. There’s no definitive proof the trip played into his injury, but it’s hard to deny it had an adverse affect on him.

Dodgers
Diamondbacks
6:40 pm PT
Phoenix, AZ
LF
Crawford
CF
Pollock
RF
Puig
2B
Hill
SS
Ramirez
1B
Goldschmidt
1B
Gonzalez
3B
Prado
CF
Ethier
C
Montero
3B
Uribe
LF
Trumbo
C
Federowicz
SS
Owings
2B
Gordon
RF
Parra
P
Ryu (L)
P
McCarthy (R)

Hyun-Jin Ryu is making his first start in a week after getting shelled against the Giants in the Dodgers’ home opener on April 4. Yasiel Puig returns from a strained/sprained thumb he suffered by foolishly sliding head-first into first base. He pinch hit on Wednesday night (and struck out), but this is his first start since the injury. Ken Gurnick reported Puig might actually have more issues fielding rather than hitting. We’ll see if it’s a factor tonight.

With Puig back in the lineup and the Dodgers facing a right-hander, Matt Kemp is getting his first night off since returning from injury. He hit two home runs on Sunday night, but he’s 0-for-7 with two walks and five strikeouts. His swing looks like it once did, but he didn’t have much of a spring training, so some ups and downs are to be expected from him early on.

Oh, then there’s this:

Awesome.

Dodgers 6, Giants 2: MATT KEMP OMG MATTY MATT KEMP YES

kemp_swing-homer_2014-04-06If not for the fact that this post is already going to have GIFs, this post would start with nothing but GIFs. (Like this! Or this!) But still, if you’re bouncing off the walls jusssssst a little bit about Matt Kemp right now, no one would blame you.

First, wonderful glorious GIFs, thanks to Chad — here’s Kemp taking Matt Cain deep in the second inning:


GIF Link

And then again in the fourth:


GIF Link

Since Kemp’s final homer of last season also came off of Cain, that’s three homers in a row for our Matt against their Matt. And since Kemp somehow managed to get through the entirety of 2013 without a single homer at home, this was his first homer at Dodger Stadium since he took out Jorge De La Rosa on Sept. 30, 2012. That was his third homer in two days, and we bring that up because tonight was the sixth time in his career that he’s hit multiple homers in a game; the last time was Sept. 29, 2012, when he hit one off Tyler Chatwood and another off Josh Roenicke.

But those are just the pure dry facts, and as great as they are, they don’t really capture what this means. I’ll be the first to tell you that placing too much importance on a single game is setting yourself up for failure, but it’s difficult not to look at those clips — and particularly the image leading this post — and not get excited. Somewhat lost in all the focus on Kemp’s destroyed ankle over the winter was that his shoulder was what was causing him so much trouble last year, and even that needed a cleanup procedure. Just look at the homers. Look at the extension. Look at the lack of concern about the shoulder. It’s been a long time since we saw that.

Again, let’s see him do it over a few weeks, or stay healthy for a few months. Let’s try to be realistic. But if you wanted to fall asleep tonight dreaming about 2011 vintage Kemp, I wouldn’t blame you. It’s been way too long.

***

greinke_2014-04-06

All I want to talk about is Kemp, and that’s all you want to talk about too. But we should probably remember that Hanley Ramirez also hit his first two homers of the year, and we should definitely remember that before Kemp went off, this post was absolutely going to be about Zack Greinke, who looked absolutely phenomenal tonight, hitting his spots and ripping through the San Francisco lineup. Greinke struck out six of the first 10 Giants he saw, and eight overall without a walk. In the first five innings, only one Giant even reached second. In the sixth, he ran into trouble by allowing solo homers to Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence, ending his day after he got the third out. But while homers aren’t great, you can really, really make them not hurt as much when they come without anyone on base.

That’s what Greinke managed to do, and he just looked outstanding — pitching in on the offensive side with a fifth-inning double, as well. That was one of three doubles the Dodgers hit tonight, along with one from Ramirez and one from Adrian Gonzalez; the total offensive output was three doubles and four homers. Zero walks, zero singles. Weird, weird night, and I mean that: the Dodgers have never done that before. Actually, just about no one has ever done that before, with the 1923 St. Louis Browns pulling off the 7 XBH / 0 BB / 0 1B trick in an April game against Detroit. And even then, they mixed in triples, so congratulations, you’ve just seen an all-time baseball first in the sense of this specific combination. This is the best sport ever.

Chris Withrow then came out for the seventh and struck out Brandon CrawfordEhire Adrianza, and Gregor Blanco. Withrow has now struck out eight of the 17 hitters he’s faced this year. Really looking forward to the riots when he inevitably ends up back in Triple-A, you guys. After J.P. Howell retired two of the three he faced in the eighth, Chris Perez came and struck out Buster Posey on a steady diet of sliders. Or so I assume. I think I blacked out just watching him jog to the mound. Kenley Jansen then came in to make Pence look silly, allow a Mike Morse single, whiff Brandon Crawford, and blow away pinch-hitter Hector Sanchez. All told, the Dodgers struck out 16 and go into tomorrow’s day off at 5-3, a half-game behind the Giants.

But hey, guys: Matt Kemp.

Giants @ Dodgers April 4, 2014: Dodger Stadium Is Back And So Is Matt Kemp

dodger_stadium_openingday2013Depending on how you look at it, things are either great, or they’re terrible.

It’s certainly bad that Clayton Kershaw may be out until May, or even June. It’s bad that Brian Wilson‘s twice-zippered elbow is barking (even if he is going to pitch in the minors on Sunday). It’s bad that Yasiel Puig couldn’t be bothered to show up on time for the home opener, earning himself a spot on the bench today. It’s bad that articles like this exist. It’s bad that a huge amount of fans can’t watch these games — the text messages I received from a DirecTV-subscribing friend of mine who only realized this yesterday were illuminating — and worse that Time Warner and DirecTV are lobbing lies and accusations at one another. It’s bad that Vin Scully can’t watch the games he’s not in attendance for. It’s bad that Hanley Ramirez hasn’t hit anything. It’s bad that Adrian Gonzalez hasn’t hit anything. It’s bad that Andre Ethier hasn’t hit anything.

Giants
Dodgers 
1:10pm PT
Los Angeles, CA
CF
Pagan
LF
Crawford
RF
Pence
CF
Kemp
3B
Sandoval
SS
Ramirez
C
Posey
1B
Gonzalez
LF
Morse
RF
Ethier
1B
Belt
3B
Uribe
2B
Hicks
C
Ellis
SS
Arias
2B
Gordon
P
Vogelsong (R)
P
Ryu (L)

These things are bad. Bad things are bad.

And yet! Despite all that, the Dodgers have won four of their first five games. While the Giants are 3-1, the Padres, Diamondbacks, and Rockies are a combined 3-10. After endless games in Arizona and Australia and San Diego, wrapped around fake games in Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Dodgers are back home for a game that counts for the first time since beating St. Louis 6-4 in Game 5 of the NLCS, way back on October 16, and Dodger Stadium is gleaming with yet another round of new improvements.

Oh, and Matt Kemp is back too, playing center and hitting second, after initially not being in the lineup before Puig happened. There’s baseball, real baseball, day baseball, with Kemp and Hyun-jin Ryu at Dodger Stadium. You know what? Maybe things aren’t quite so bad after all.

As expected, Mike Baxter was optioned back to Triple-A Albuquerque after going 0-7 with a walk in eight plate appearances, including one start. And as Kemp works his way back onto the roster, we’re reminded that what so many people think is a problem is not yet a problem. There has still never been a game where Ethier, Kemp, Puig, and Carl Crawford have all been healthy and active for a full nine innings. Last year, there were only two games where it even started that way, and Kemp was injured by the end of each. Does it count if that ends today because Puig either sits out or maybe only pinch hits? I guess we’ll see.

Puig is still listed among the reserves, and we don’t know if he’s out for the day or just not starting. Either way, good luck bringing in lefty Javier Lopez to face Crawford or Ethier in the 8th inning, Bruce Bochy. This bench just got mildly less terrible.

***

Also, this! Chad Billingsley will make his first rehab start on Sunday for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga. He is expected to need five rehab starts – three in Rancho around two in Albuquerque –, which means he could only be about a month away from returning. If all goes well, it seems more likely than not he could actually beat Kershaw back to the mound.

So Much Good News. Too Much Good News?

ryu-australia_2014-03-23

This right here, this is good news:

The Dodgers will start Hyun-jin Ryu in their domestic regular season opener on Sunday night against the Padres at Petco Park. The southpaw cracked his right big toenail while running the bases on Sunday in Sydney (Saturday night in Los Angeles), but has been cleared by the team medical staff to return to the mound.

So is this:

The Dodgers’ home opener against the Giants on April 4 could double as a homecoming of sorts, and not only because that may be Clayton Kershaw‘s first regular-season appearance on the mainland: There is a good chance it also will mean the return of Matt Kemp.

The Dodgers’ outfielder, recovering from surgery on a major weight-bearing bone in his left ankle, Friday pronounced himself all the way back and ready to roll.

And this, from Don Mattingly on Clayton Kershaw:

“He didn’t feel anything throwing. Obviously, he was not trying to throw 95.

“My next question was did he feel anything when he played catch the other day, and he said yes.

“That means we’ve taken a little step forward.”

And so, somehow, is this:

Given their spate of early season off-days, the Dodgers will not need a fifth starter until April 19. And when that day comes, a familiar face appears ready to step back into the rotation: Josh Beckett.

In fact, Beckett is doing so well that if Clayton Kershaw isn’t ready to pitch by next weekend, the veteran right-hander could be called upon.

And what the hell, this was great to see from Joc Pederson last night, too:

As we look forward to the final exhibition game tonight and the start of the regular season tomorrow, we’re being hit with nothing but good news on the eve of what should be a fantastic season. So like any good Dodger fan would ask, what could possibly happen to make us rue feeling so positive? I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough. For now, nothing but good news.

Ryu gets the nod in Game 2, along with Gordon and Baxter

The Dodgers are changing things up in the second game of the season in Australia, inserting two new players into the lineup and switching up the batting order. Scott Van Slyke is sitting for Mike Baxter and Justin Turner is being replaced by Dee Gordon, but perhaps the most interesting move is the decision to bat Gordon leadoff.

The changes are understandable with a switch in handedness of the opposing starting pitcher (though SVS had a reverse platoon split last year), and I think it’s actually a positive sign for the future if this indicates a new willingness to platoon going forward. Here’s hoping Don Mattingly doesn’t give up on it if a few tries are unsuccessful … and that he doesn’t view players like Baxter as a legit platoon option going forward.

Meanwhile, starter Hyun Jin Ryu has high expectations for his 2014.

“Our one and two starters are so strong, but after Zack Greinke was hurt, I started thinking I might pitch,” said Ryu, who gets the ball for the Dodgers on Sunday against the D-backs. “I had a really good spring, and I feel really good. I have high expectations.”

Diamondbacks
Dodgers 
7:00pm PT
Sydney, Australia
CF
Pollock
2B
Gordon
2B
Hill
RF
Puig
1B
Goldschmidt
SS
Ramirez
LF
Prado
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Trumbo
CF
Ethier
RF
Montero
C
Ellis
C
Parra
LF
Baxter
2B
Gregorius
3B
Uribe
P
Cahill
P
Ryu

In injury news, Chad Billingsley continues to progress in rehab.

Billingsley said he expects to throw a few more BP sessions against hitters, and he remains on track to make the first of at least five rehab appearances in the Minor Leagues starting on April 6. The right-hander estimates that he has already thrown close to 20 bullpen sessions this year.

“My arm felt good, so that’s definitely good, especially being the first time going full bore with the heater and the first time throwing a hard curveball and changeups,” Billingsley said. “I was a little rusty, but I was very pleased with the curveball. The timing was a little off, but I threw some good pitches, and overall, I’m pretty pleased with it.”

And no, Matt Kemp is apparently not banned from getting hits in minor league games.

Kemp finished 2-for-4 with a home run and a double in a Triple-A game against the a White Sox.

“I’m getting my work in and getting ready for the season,” Kemp said. “I felt pretty good. Today was a good day.”

Have a feeling the Dodgers are really going to need him in 2014, for better or worse.

=====

-Carl Crawford‘s fiance gave birth to a baby boy. No complications and he should be ready to go when the Dodgers get back. Congrats to him.

Chone Figgins likely going to Australia & other notes

"He'll be on the plane."

“He’ll be on the plane, as of right now.” (By: Dustin Nosler)

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Not much is happening early at Camelback Ranch this morning, as the players aren’t taking batting or fielding practice. They only just came out to stretch and play some catch.

Rockies
Dodgers
1:05pm PT
Glendale, Ariz.
LF
Blackmon
RF
Puig
CF
Barnes
LF
Crawford
3B
Arenado
SS
Ramirez
RF
Cuddyer
1B
Gonzalez
1B
McBride
CF
Ethier
SS
Culberson
3B
Uribe
C
Pacheco
C
Ellis
LF
LeMahieu
2B
Gordon
P
Lyles
P
Ryu

Manager Don Mattingly had his daily morning press conference that offered little news. He did officially rule out Carl Crawford for the Australia trip because he the impending birth of his child. Mattingly also said Brandon League would likely stay behind (he’s throwing on the minor-league side today) and Matt Kemp will get the day off before returning to the minor-league side on Monday.

Mattingly said he’d have more information about the 30 players who are going to Australia after Sunday’s game.

“It’s really not going to be that big of a secret,” Mattingly said. “It’s just a matter of getting through the game today.”

He said the Dodgers pretty much know who’s going, but he doesn’t want to announce a player is going only for something to happen between now and the time they get on the plane (midnight tonight) that prevents a player from going.

Mattingly also offered some insight as to what Kemp will do while the team is away for a week.

“As much as anything, just basically having spring training, more along the lines of above else where he’s getting his at-bats every day,” Mattingly said.

Chone Figgins hasn’t been great this spring, but he’s offered on-base ability and versatility, which sounds like it will be enough for him to make this club — at least, make the 30-man cut for Australia.

“I feel like his bat’s been OK, not necessarily have that many hits, but walked quite a bit,” Mattingly said. “His at-bats have been the kind of at-bats we like. He’s shown he can kinda play everywhere on the field. So there’s definitely value there with Figgy. We still feel like the body’s live he’s moving good, and he’s been running good. He’s had no issues … So, if we like what we see, we do feel like at-bats will get better and better.

“He’ll be on the plane, as of right now.”

Players not going to Australia

Carl Crawford
Josh Beckett
Chad Billingsley
Zack Greinke
Dan Haren
Matt Kemp
Brandon League (probably not)

The Australia roster will be more clear following the game. But expect guys like Justin Turner and Chone Figgins to be on the plane, as well as a pitcher to throw in the exhibition game. I’ve heard speculation it could be Zach Lee, which would make sense as the Dodgers are already down 3/5 of their starting rotation and need Paul Maholm to be the long man in case Clayton Kershaw or Hyun-jin Ryu falter.

The main goal for today is to get through the game healthy. Something that didn’t happen for Patrick Corbin of the Diamondbacks. He suffered damage to his UCL and won’t go to Australia. Wade Miley is replacing him and will start the first game.

A Look At Historic Scouting Reports

(via)

Well scouted. (via)

 
Padres
   
Dodgers (ss)
 
1:05pm PT
   
Glendale, Ariz.
CF
Venable
 
2B
Gordon
RF
Denorfia
 
LF
Crawford
1B
Alonso
 
SS
Ramirez
LF
Smith
 
1B
Gonzalez
C
Hundley
 
CF
Ethier
2B
Amarista
 
C
Federowicz
SS
Jackson
 
RF
Baxter
3B
Gonzalez
 
3B
Rojas
P
Urias
 
P
Demel

A few weeks ago, Daren Willman added another search database to his excellent Baseball Savant website. The new database searches through scouting reports found on the Hall of Fame’s archives. It makes it easier to sort through the reports by team. Obviously, my first instinct was to search for Dodgers. Below are some of my favorite reports from the list.

Clayton Kershaw – 3/11/2006 - Report Link

Best quotes: “Dead ringer for Dave Righetti at the same edge”, “Likes to hit, has some power, but is where he belongs on the mound”, “Fits nicely in first round”

I can’t do anything but smile when I read this report. I think the pitch grades in relation to each other are fun. The scout gave Kershaw’s curve, slider, and change-up the same present grades. He also projected Kershaw’s slider to be his best off-speed pitch in the future, which is interesting since Kershaw didn’t really develop the pitch in the majors until 2011.

Matt Kemp – 4/16/2003 - Report Link

Best quote: “He presents an interesting package… Tools are there and so is size and strength”

When he was in the minors, Kemp had the reputation of being an extremely raw athlete with a lot of potential in his tools. This scouting report, filed when Kemp was in high school, had the same conclusion. It’s fun that Kemp’s hit tool was only listed as a “30″, but the scout projected a big improvement. Knowing what we know about Kemp’s peak, it’s nice to think about how far he advanced from the low present grades on the report.

Gilbert Bodet, the same scout who wrote the report on Kershaw, also filed this one. He evaluated Kemp as a fourth to sixth round pick and the Dodgers managed to get him at the end of that range. How did they use the fourth and fifth round picks that year? They selected Xavier Paul and Jordan Pratt.

James Loney – 3/30/2002 - Report Link

Best quote: “His mechanics to hit are very similar to that of Garret Anderson who was the same kind of hitter as HS player”, “Also a LHP but did not see him that way”

This is another Gilbert Bodet report. He was pretty high on Loney’s talent at the time, especially his defense. In terms of overall hitting ability, comparing Loney (105 career wRC+ without late career decline) to Anderson (100 career wRC+ with late career decline) isn’t too far off, though Anderson did it without the huge platoon splits. Given Bodet’s low grades in other scouting reports, the future 75 that he gave to Loney’s defense sticks out quite a bit. Loney was always very good at first for the Dodgers, but probably not quite to that magnitude. The 30 grade on running speed is amusing, too.

This high of an evaluation of Loney seems to be a “miss”, but given the talent Loney showed during his trip through the minors (and occasionally in the majors), it doesn’t seem that bad. The Dodgers drafted Loney in the first round, higher than what Bodet suggested in this report.

Darren Dreifort – 1993 (multiple) - Link 1 - Link 2

Best quotes: “Throws an overpowering and explosive fastball with well above average ML slider”, “Become a closer out of the bull pen”, “could be youngest closing pitcher in ML history”

Both of these reports aren’t from the Dodgers, so they show some interesting insight on how other organizations viewed Dreifort. Both the Angels and the Royals viewed him as a closer, but Dreifort only ended up with 11 saves in the majors. Neither of the reports could have seen Dreifort’s injuries coming, though. The superlatives given to Dreifort’s fastball, such as “overpowering”, don’t quite match what we’d say about it today (87 to 92 per the Royals report). Times have changed. Both reports also said that Dreifort had the ability to jump straight to the majors, which he did.

 
Dodgers (ss)
   
White Sox
 
7:05pm PT
   
Glendale, Ariz.
RF
Puig
 
CF
Eaton
SS
Turner
 
2B
Beckham
1B
Van Slyke
 
1B
Abreu
3B
Uribe
 
RF
Garcia
C
Ellis
 
DH
Dunn
2B
Guerrero
 
LF
Viciedo
CF
Pederson
 
SS
Ramirez
LF
Figgins
 
3B
Gillaspie
P
Kershaw
 
C
Flowers

Mike Piazza – 4/15/86 - Report Link

Best quote: “A long way to come with overall ability but worth selection on bat and power”

Piazza was famously a 62nd round draft pick, but this scouting report seems more positive. The highlighted quote definitely seems like something that would be selected earlier. I found the “2″ rating on Piazza’s hit tool to be interesting (as well as the future “4″, far below where he ended up). He was also scouted as a first baseman on this report.

Sandy Koufax – 5/15/1954 - Report Link

Best quote: “Not interested in pro ball until he graduates”, “also plays first because of his hitting ability”, “has averaged 16 strikeouts per game this season”

Koufax’s Wikipedia article briefly mentions this scouting report, saying it was filed away and forgotten. That’s baffling, given how positive the language is. Perhaps the Dodgers were less inclined to pursue Koufax due to the interest in schooling that is stated on the report. Koufax tried out for a few other teams before the Dodgers finally signed him, and we all know what happened after that. The high grades are interesting, given how rocky Koufax was at the start of his career.

I also enjoyed the line about Koufax’s hitting, but that ended up being fairly inaccurate. Koufax was a terrible hitter during his career (-4.2 oWAR), but he did manage two home runs.

Today’s split-squad double header features some fun news. Julio Urias is on the roster for the afternoon game and is scheduled to pitch one inning. Of course, that game is one of the only spring training games that the Dodgers will not be televising this year.

We are now less than a week from baseball that counts.

Update: The Dodgers have announced that Urias will be starting the game in Demel’s place. They have also confirmed that there will not be a webcast from Camelback (which the White Sox do sometimes). I guess we’ll have to wait for first-hand reports from Dustin and the other media in Glendale.

What it would take for Joc Pederson to make the Dodgers

pederson_bats_arizona-2014-03-08

Soon, but not quite yet.

Joc Pederson is going to be a good baseball player. There’s no denying that. He has a sweet swing, better-than-advertised power and can play good defense in center field (despite letting that popup drop in on Saturday night).

The question many fans are asking is, “Is he going to break camp with the team?” The answer is simply, no. The 22-year-old is plenty talented to start in center field for at least a third of the teams in the majors right now, but there are a lot of things that would have to happen for him to don a Dodger jersey on opening day.

Matt Kemp is going to begin the 2014 on the disabled list. He’s doing more baseball stuff, but he won’t be ready for March 30 — three weeks from today. So, that’s a plus on Pederson’s side. Since Kemp figures to be the center fielder, that spot is technically open. But that spot will also be filled by Andre Ethier, who played a not-terrible center field in Kemp’s absence last year.

Dodgers
Royals
1:05pm PT
Surprise, Ariz.
SS
Figgins
RF
Aoki
LF
Crawford
2B
Infante
RF
Puig
LF
Gordon
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Butler
CF
Van Slyke
DH
Maxwell
3B
Uribe
3B
Valencia
2B
Turner
CF
Cain
C
Ellis
C
Hayes
P
Haren
SS
Escobar

Barring anything unforeseen, Yasiel Puig will play 150-plus games this season, so right field is out of the question. Even Scott Van Slyke has laid claim to the team’s No. 5 outfield spot.

That leaves the left field duo of Carl Crawford and Ethier. Both of them have spent ample time on the disabled list in recent years, but for Pederson to be on the 25-man roster on opening day, Crawford and Ethier would have to be on the DL.

While Pederson is arguably as talented as those two (probably more so), he isn’t going to win a job over them in spring training. We all know spring training stats are generally useless, let’s remember Puig hit .514/.500/.828 last year and began the season at Double-A. Pederson is hitting .250/.423/.600 in 12 games this spring. If he were Puiging this spring training, he might have a more solid case.

The Dodgers’ top three outfielders would have to be on the DL for an extended period of time for Pederson to make the team. It wouldn’t make sense to have him up for only a handful of games, just to send him down to Triple-A.

Pederson will make his debut in 2014, because the likelihood of all four outfielders making it through the season unscathed is minimal. When Pederson comes up, it will be — at minimum — for a 10-15 game stretch in which he plays every day. That will be fun to see.

But until that time, spend the $20 on MiLB.tv and watch him hit in the Pacific Coast League. That will pay for the service by itself.

Matt Kemp could see game action soon, says Don Mattingly

kemp_road_grays

Matt Kemp could soon return to game action for the Dodgers, according to manager Don Mattingly (via Ken Gurnick).

“I think that’s fair to say,” Mattingly said when asked if Kemp’s intensifying workouts were a sign that game action could soon follow.

Kemp, recovering from serious ankle surgery, has begun to run and make turns, although not yet on the bases. He also has resumed tracking fly balls in the outfield. He has been taking batting practice and throwing throughout Spring Training. He will start the season on the disabled list.

“We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” said Mattingly. “He’s swinging the bat good. It won’t be long before he’s in a game.”

Dodgers (ss)
Mariners
6:05pm PT
Phoenix, Ariz.
2B
Gordon
CF
Almonte
LF
Crawford
3B
Seager
SS
Ramirez
SS
Franklin
RF
Van Slyke
DH
Smoak
1B
Robinson
1B
Montero
3B
Uribe
LF
Romero
CF
Pederson
RF
Jones
C
Federowicz
2B
Triunfel
DH
Guerrero
C
Quintero
P
Beckett
 
P
Beavan

Understandably though, as they’ve done all off-season, Dodgers management has refused to set a timetable or raise expectations on his return.

Mattingly, however, wouldn’t say if the club will see Kemp in a game before the team flight to Australia on March 16.

“I don’t put that kind of timetable on it,” he said. “As long as he’s moving forward.”

It makes sense and jives with the off-season company line regarding Kemp’s health, which has been basically to not rush proceedings via media quotes under any circumstances.

Timetable or not, it’s the first indication the Dodgers have given that we could soon see Kemp on the field again, and it certainly represents a positive step forward in the rehab process.

=====

Also of note in terms of injury, Zack Greinke threw 34 pitches in a BP session today and felt “pretty good.”

Most importantly, it led to this assessment of his current speed.

“I could field now,” he said. “If I had to beat Dee (Gordon) to first base from the mound, Dee would beat me. If it was A.J. Ellis, I still might not, but I’d probably beat him.”

Poor A.J. Ellis.

Finally, Yasiel Puig was excused today to deal with a “personal matter.” No details on that were revealed.

Things Looking Up For Matt Kemp, But Reality Will Require Patience

Matt Kemp‘s MRI came back positive, he’s back running around again, and Mark McGwire is singing praises about his swing returning. Nobody wants to go all-in on all of this hype more than me, but I also can’t help but think cautiously.

Dodgers
Athletics
12:05pm PT
Phoenix, Ariz.
3B
Figgins
CF
Burns
CF
Ethier
2B
Punto
SS
Ramirez
SS
Lowrie
1B
Gonzalez
DH
Donaldson
LF
Van Slyke
RF
Reddick
C
Ellis
3B
Callaspo
RF
Buss
1B
Baaton
DH
Olivo
C
Norton
2B
Gordon
LF
Fuld
P
Kershaw
 
P
Griffin

There was understandably lots of worry built up about Kemp’s recent MRI results, perhaps because we’ve been conditioned lately to expect the worse. So when all the positivity rolled in with reports that Kemp’s MRI indicated progress was being made, it was a pleasant surprise (via Dylan Hernandez). The best part came with reports that followed soon after though: he was running.

For the first time since he underwent an ankle operation four months ago, Kemp ran on something other than the anti-gravity treadmill.

“I never thought running would be so fun,” he said with a smile.

The former All-Star was cleared to enter the next phase of his rehabilitation by his surgeon, who reviewed the results of a routine MRI exam Kemp underwent two days earlier.

I mentioned in the center field preview that my biggest concerns with Kemp were primarily about how he would handle the injury and whether he would end up playing differently. Well in stark contrast to last year, when he appeared to be in denial, this year he has adopted a new mentality and seems far more aware of the need for a slow and steady approach.

“You don’t want to get ahead of yourself,” he said. “Sometimes you get too happy and you want to try to do more. I just want to have faith in the program and do everything they ask me to do and not anything extra. Of course, I would love to work out extra and run extra, but that’s not in the plans.”

But as he exercises caution, he’ll also have to overcome his fears.

“I have to be right with myself and make sure I’m able to do a first-to-third or be able to score on a base hit from second base,” he said. “I don’t want to have any negative thoughts in my head. I want to be able to go out there and play aggressive and steal bases when I can and do some of those athletic things that everybody is used to me doing.”

So at the very least, he seems to know and share the concerns that are out there. And that alone is already a better start than he had in 2013.

Completing the recent optimism was an article by Buster Olney about the return of Kemp’s hitting prowess.

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