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Kemp could get more at-bats

July 04, 2007|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

If Matt Kemp continues to hit the way he has been, he could force Manager Grady Little to make him his everyday right fielder.

"Sometimes players make us play them," Little said. "Right now, he's playing really good, trying to make me play him more."

Kemp, who has been sharing time with Andre Ethier, began Tuesday's game with the Atlanta Braves hitting .389 (21 for 54) with three home runs and nine runs batted in since being recalled from triple-A Las Vegas on June 8.

He went two for four Tuesday and drove in the winning run with a seventh-inning single.

The 22-year-old Kemp credited his improvement to playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic and to conversations with veterans Juan Pierre, Luis Gonzalez and Marlon Anderson, who was designated for assignment last week.

Pierre said their talks have focused more on preparation than actual strategy.

"He'll be his own worst enemy if he doesn't make it because he has all the physical ability in the world," Pierre said.

Pierre pointed to Kemp's recovery from an early-season injury as evidence that he might have the right mentality. Kemp was hurt crashing into the right-field wall in April and was sent to Las Vegas when he recovered because there wasn't room for him on the 25-man roster.

Kemp responded by hitting .329 over 39 games to earn his way back to Los Angeles.

"He didn't go down there and pout," Pierre said.

Kemp said his next mental obstacle will be to anticipating the adjustments pitchers will make when facing him.


Of the 25 runners left-handed reliever Joe Beimel had inherited before Tuesday's game, only two had scored.

Beimel stranded the two runners he inherited from Derek Lowe in the sixth inning Monday and picked up his second win of the season by pitching two scoreless innings. He induced a 1-2-3 double play in the seventh inning that marked his 11th assist in 35 2/3 innings.

Beimel explained that right-handed hitters don't try to pull his sinker -- "They know it'll go to the shortstop or the third baseman," he said -- and instead try to go up the middle.


Seldom-used catcher Mike Lieberthal got a start Tuesday, as Little opted to rest Russell Martin. The occurrence was so rare -- the start was Lieberthal's ninth of the season -- that teammates left two bundles of balloons taped to his locker.

Little said Martin needed a day off because he wouldn't get an All-Star break.

Nomar Garciaparra also had the day off, with Wilson Betemit starting in his place at third base.


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