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Dodgers' Matt Kemp gets the word from Don Mattingly: He's batting cleanup

Kemp has batted all over the lineup in the past, but Mattingly, the first-year manager, wants his players to know their roles from the start. Rafael Furcal will bat first and Andre Ethier will bat third, followed by Kemp.

March 01, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp isn't the only one who knows where he'll be batting in the lineup this season.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp isn't the only one who knows where… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

Reporting from Goodyear, Ariz. — Matt Kemp has never been certain of his place in the Dodgers' lineup, batting everywhere from second to seventh as recently as last season.

Now he knows.

Manager Don Mattingly has already made clear that Kemp will bat cleanup.

The other certainties: Rafael Furcal will lead off and Andre Ethier will hit third.

"It's definitely nice to be in one spot, not moving around," Kemp said. "I know what I have to do in the four hole. I know what my job is. I can stick with my plan. I just have to drive in runs and make things happen. My job is to get runs in."

Mattingly said he likes players to know what their jobs are, which is why he has already set his rotation and is close to settling on a lineup.

If everyone stays healthy, the rotation will be lined up the way it is for the exhibition season — in order, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly, Hiroki Kuroda and Jon Garland.

"I think guys get comfortable," Mattingly said.

At this time, Mattingly's plan for the lineup calls for Casey Blake to bat second.

Mattingly said he likes Blake's patience and that his ability to hit the ball to the opposite field will lead to more hit-and-run opportunities. He also noted that the aging third baseman could benefit from seeing more fastballs batting in front of Ethier.

Juan Uribe could bat second on days Blake is off, but Mattingly said he prefers to bat him with men on base.

Uribe and James Loney will likely alternate in the No. 5 and 6 spots, with Uribe batting fifth against left-handers and Loney doing so against right-handers.

Mattingly said he is leaning toward hitting the left fielder in the No. 7 spot and catcher Rod Barajas in front of the pitcher.

Prospect to watch

Jerry Sands was an unknown a year ago this time, a former 25th-round pick out of a school in North Carolina few had ever heard of.

But Sands, who hit a home run in the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday at Goodyear Park, might now be on the verge of breaking into the big leagues.

The Dodgers' reigning minor league player of the year said he thinks his call could come this year.

"Absolutely," he said. "That's the goal."

Sands, 23, comes from a small high school and a small college, Catawba, where he hit a school-record 61 home runs in three seasons.

Drafted in 2008, he hit .205 in 46 games in the Gulf Coast League.

Sands had a breakout season last year, hitting a combined .301 with 28 home runs and 93 runs batted in in 137 games for low-A Great Lakes and double-A Chattanooga. He more than held his own in Chattanooga despite skipping high-A ball, as he hit .270 with 17 home runs and 47 RBIs in 68 games in double A.

He said he doesn't mind being overlooked because of his background.

"I kind of like the underdog persona," he said.

Mattingly, who managed Sands in the Arizona Fall League, said the outfielder and first baseman doesn't carry himself like a nobody.

"When guys get him out, he doesn't seem to be bothered," Mattingly said.

Short hops

The Dodgers will hold their annual open tryout on Thursday at Camelback Ranch. Registration will begin at 8 a.m. and the tryout will take place at 9 a.m.

The club signed two players in each of the last two years, including right-handed pitcher Tim Corcoran, who is still in the organization.

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