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Hold off on any panic over Matt Kemp's poor spring start

March 09, 2013|By Steve Dilbeck
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, left, talks with hitting coach Mark McGwire during a workout at spring training last month.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, left, talks with hitting coach Mark McGwire… (Paul Sancya / Associated…)

Nervous, are you? Matt Kemp can’t get a hit. Can’t seem to find his spring groove. Seems slightly hesitant at the plate.

Relax, blue lover, this is not a major concern. Not on March 9. Yeah, the numbers are not exciting. Kemp is 0 for 11 this spring with five strikeouts. Add his game against Mexico and his one at-bat in Friday’s rainout, and he’s a combined 0 for 15.

Kemp, of course, had off-season surgery on his left shoulder. The Dodgers hoped it would be just a minor cleanup, but he needed his labrum reattached.

So after he went hitless in three at-bats on Saturday in the Dodgers’ 3-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners with two more strikeouts, somewhere the concern level had to be rising a bit.

But Kemp sent a screeching line drive to center for an out and does not appear to be in any pain when he swings hard. That’s the most important part.

Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp has to trust his rehab, forget about the shoulder and just let it go.

“He has to let it loose,” Mattingly said.

Kemp admitted to reporters that he was holding back a tad and had to put the shoulder out of mind.

“I need to,” he said. “I need to swing like I swing.”

That will come. The more the shoulder doesn’t bark, the more confidence he will have in it. The more he will approach his normal at-bats. Sure, everyone would love to see it right now. Love to see Kemp looking like the guy who finished second in the 2011 most-valuable-player voting.

But there are three full weeks and 23 spring games to go. Plenty of time for Kemp to rediscover his swing and regain his impressive stroke.

Meanwhile Saturday, the Dodgers used a two-run homer from Alex Castellanos in the seventh inning to edge the Mariners. Castellanos, bidding to become the extra outfielder, is hitting only .250 this spring but has three of the team’s 10 home runs.

Aaron Harang started for the Dodgers and didn’t do anything to up his trade value. He went three innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a pair of walks.


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