Following Monday’s 3-1 win over Arizona, Matt Kemp was placed on the disabled list thanks to soreness in his left hamstring, and as you can imagine, that’s leading to a lot of doom-and-gloom predictions for the surprising Dodgers around baseball. It’s not great, of course, but it’s absolutely the right thing to do: the Dodgers had been without Kemp for May anyway (.212/.341/.303), and this at least allows him to properly heal without rushing back and causing a long-term problem.
Jerry Sands is coming back up to take his place, and while his struggles this year have been well-documented, at least he’s been better lately, with three homers for Albuquerque this week. If anything, this is going to lead to some pretty interesting roster maneuvering for Don Mattingly, and I’m intrigued to see how he’ll handle it. He’s shown little inclination to use Scott Van Slyke this far, and now you’ve got Sands, a very similar player who had fallen behind Van Slyke, and Elian Herrera, who everyone knows little about.
Gwynn will be the primary center fielder with Kemp on the shelf, which Mattingly doesn’t think will be more than 15 days. But Mattingly also wants to make sure Gwynn doesn’t get overused, and said he would use Andre Ethier in center field for “two or three games” with Kemp out.
I’ll place that under “I’ll believe it when I see it,” because, wow. Imagine a defensive alignment that features Bobby Abreu in right, Ethier in center, and let’s say Sands in right? Sands and Van Slyke are at least adequate at worst, but in general that might be the worst defensive outfield we’ve seen in years.
I doubt that happens too much, though, because if Gwynn’s great glove isn’t enough to overcome his lousy bat in left, it just might in center, and if Gwynn does get a day off, Herrera has experience there. Since Van Slyke has little experience at first, my guess is that we’ll see him – if we ever do – sharing time with Bobby Abreu in left, while Sands sees more time at first base than anywhere else.
And that’s not a bad thing, you know? Though I admit it’s hard to see Mattingly wanting to put in both young players at the same time, you could have both Abreu and James Loney out against tough lefties, and that immediately strengthens what had been shaping up to be a horrendous bench. (Herrera hits from both sides, increasing flexibility.)
We’ll miss Kemp, but I’m glad to see him get the time to heal properly, especially with the Dodgers enjoying such a cushion, and the spate of injuries suddenly gives Mattingly some fascinating new options. (And leaves Albuquerque with like, one outfielder.)