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Poor showing last year doesn't deter Matt Kemp from derby

The Dodgers slugger hit only two home runs in last year's Home Run Derby, but he is returning this year as the National League captain. The Angels' Mark Trumbo will hit for the American League.

July 08, 2012|By Bill Shaikin
  • Matt Kemp hits a walk-off home run in the tenth inning against the Washington Nationals back in April.
Matt Kemp hits a walk-off home run in the tenth inning against the Washington… (Mark J. Terrill / Associated…)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Home Run Derby did not last long for Matt Kemp last year. Two home runs, last place, thank you for playing.

He is not the superstitious sort, much to the relief of the derby planners. Kemp accepted an invitation to captain the National League squad in this year's derby, and with it a second chance to go deep or go home.

If Kemp really were concerned about his luck, he might skip the derby, or at least try a different pitcher. But he tapped Dodgers bullpen coach Rob Flippo as his pitcher last year, and he is bringing Flippo back this year.

"I'm just having fun," Kemp said. "I'm a very competitive person. So I'm going to go out there and try and put on a show for the fans, and definitely try to win it. But, if I don't, I'm not going to be heartbroken.

"It's definitely something I enjoyed doing last year, and I'm going to love to do it again this year."

Kemp's NL squad includes Carlos Beltran of the St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies and Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The American League squad, captained by defending champion Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, includes Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays, Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers and Mark Trumbo of the Angels.

The last two Angels to enter the derby emerged as winners: Vladimir Guerrero in 2007 and Garret Anderson in 2003. The last two Dodgers to enter each failed to get out of the first round: Hee-Seop Choi in 2005 and Kemp last year.

But Kemp's post-derby performance last year appears to belie the theory that participating in the event can wreck a swing for weeks thereafter. Kemp homered in each of the first two games following the derby last year. In his first 14 games after the derby, he hit .327 with four homers and 15 runs batted in.

Kemp has not played for the Dodgers since May 30 because of a hamstring injury, though he completed a minor league rehabilitation assignment Sunday. The Dodgers are expected to activate him when they resume play Friday.

Trumbo won the last home run derby in which he participated — in the Texas League, three years ago.

Trumbo, who has chosen Angels batting practice pitcher Mike Ashman as his pitcher, said he won't call the evening a success only if he wins.

"Have a good time, enjoy the experience," Trumbo said. "Obviously, you'd like to win.

"I'm going to give it my best effort. I'd like to think I have a pretty good chance. It's all about getting in a groove. If I am, I should be a contender."

In a social media initiative, Major League Baseball plans to provide computer stations on the field for players to tweet during the derby.

"I'll have some people there helping me," Trumbo said. "Mike [Trout] might take care of that for the both of us."

Said Kemp: "I actually send out my own tweets. I don't have anybody tweeting for me. So, if anything, it would be me tweeting."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

twitter.com/BillShaikin

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