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Kemp has a mentor in Jones

February 23, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

VERO BEACH, Fla. -- Andruw Jones said he saw something familiar in Matt Kemp when they met for the first time at the Dodgers' mini-camp in Los Angeles last month.

He saw himself.

The 23-year-old right fielder with a reputation for being cocky and a knack for making mistakes on the basepaths was to the 30-year-old Jones a "real bright kid with a good head on his shoulders."

In Jones, Kemp said, he has found a mentor who he says understands him. He traded phone numbers with Jones at the camp in Dodger Stadium and regularly exchanged calls and text messages with him in the month leading up to spring training.

"We already have a connection," Kemp said. "I feel like I've known him for a while."

Manager Joe Torre has encouraged, if not pushed, Kemp to learn what he can from the 10-time Gold Glove-winning center fielder, grouping him with Jones in workouts.

"We all know Kemp has certainly been trumpeted as this heir apparent and the guy who has a big upside," Torre said. "All those things are true. But there are certain nuances and subtleties in this game that you get when you're older. Andruw was young at one time. You watched him mature. What we all try to do is to give the young players the benefit of our experience."

Jones, who signed with the Dodgers as a free agent this winter, said he hasn't asked his teammates about the generation rift in the clubhouse last season.

But as someone who broke into the majors at 19 and hit two home runs that year in the opening game of the 1996 World Series against the New York Yankees, he says he remembers what it's like to have his attitude called into question, to have his confidence described as arrogance.

"I've been through all the stuff that a lot of the young guys went through," Jones said. "I know how it's like when people say, 'He's too cocky,' or 'He handles himself like this.' He handles himself like that because he's confident."

Kemp said something similar of the way he's perceived.

"Some people might think I'm a good person, some people might think I'm a bad person," he said. "But the people that know me know what type of person I am."

Kemp said he understood he has a long way to go as a ballplayer. To learn how to get there, he said, he only has to look to his right.

"I see every time we're out there on the field, he's not just sitting around just watching the ball," Kemp said. "He's working on his jumps.

"I'm learning from the best, man. I'm just trying to get to his level."

Right-hander Yhency Brazoban, who has spent most of the last two seasons on the disabled list and is recovering from shoulder surgery, says he expects to be ready for opening day.

Like Jason Schmidt, Brazoban has been throwing every three days. He said he has been throwing at 70% of full effort, and has been pleased with the control of his slider and sinker.

"It's been two years of not playing," Brazoban said. "I feel really happy."

The wife of outfielder Jason Repko gave birth Thursday to a seven-pound boy, Tyler Jason. Repko left the team Wednesday to go home to Washington for the birth. . . . Dr. Frank Jobe, who pioneered the Tommy John surgery, has been named a special advisor to owner Frank McCourt. . . . The Dodgers will play a five-inning intrasquad game Sunday.


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