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This time, play it smart: Dodgers need to place Matt Kemp on DL

May 14, 2012|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp slaps his bat after striking out against the Giants on Wednesday night.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp slaps his bat after striking out against… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

It's time to save Matt Kemp from himself. I'm convinced that somebody has to, for his and the team's sake.

He needs to go on the disabled list and get that hamstring completely healthy. Sacrifice a couple weeks to avoid the possibility of losing him for a couple months.

"I'm definitely not going on the DL; that's not going to happen," Kemp said. "The team needs me. I don't think this is a 15-day thing. It's maybe one, two, three days. It's not something that I need to go on the DL for."

Kemp wants to play, and that's great. He actually wants to play every day, and that's great too. He's appeared in a major-league high 399 consecutive games, which is swell but ultimately unimportant.

What's important is winning a division. And for that, the Dodgers need a healthy Kemp. Not one playing at half speed with everyone scared at any moment he might blow out his hamstring. Not one aggravating it again Sunday.

So as I suggested the first time, put him on the DL. Call up a versatile player from triple-A Albuquerque such as Elian Herrera, who can play shortstop and center field. Or simply call up a center fielder such as Matt Angle or Trent Oeltjen (though both are struggling).

The Dodgers tried pushing this when it first happened in Chicago on May 5, and it really hasn't worked. Kemp has hit .174 since, with one extra-base hit and two RBIs. If they had just placed him on the DL then, the hamstring might be healthy now and they'd only have a week left without him.

"I kinda haven't been able to play the way I want to play," Kemp said. "I've been a little bit scary because I didn't know how my hamstring would hold up. I think I just need to let it heal for a little bit. I don't know how much time that's going to take, but we'll see."

He’s scheduled to have an MRI exam on Monday. You almost hope there’s just enough there to justify shutting him down.

"I'm not afraid to do it," said Manager Don Mattingly. "If that's what we have to do, then I think it's the right thing. In that area, I'm going to let the medical people tell us what they think.

"You can survive. You can get by without guys temporarily, you just can't do it long-term, over the course of a whole season. ... That's why I'm more on the cautious side. Let's make sure we get this guy healthy. And not just Matt, anybody. It's Jerry Hairston, it's Juan Rivera, any pitcher or whatever. You have to look at the length of a long season and be willing to say, 'OK, we have to fight through 15 days or 10 days or with whoever it is.' Bite the bullet there, so you don't end up missing two months or something."

After the game, General Manager Ned Colletti, farm director De Jon Watson and director of player personnel Vance Lovelace met with Mattingly in his office. No doubt they were discussing Herrera (.358), and even Angle (.256) and Oeltjen (.217). They already have Tony Gwynn Jr., who can start most games in center.

If Kemp talks like he's convinced he won't need two weeks to heal, he did not say he would attempt to talk them out of a DL stint if that's what they suggest.

"It just depends," Kemp said. "I don't think it's going to be that long. I know how my body is. I'm a pretty fast healer. We'll see."

Of course, he thought he knew his body back on May 5 and now they've essentially lost a week. The Dodgers have a six-game lead with nearly four-fifths of the season to go. Be smart, think long-term and save Kemp from his own competitive nature.

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