The trials and tribulations of Matt Kemp in 2013 just never seem to end, apparently. Just two days ago, we were here wondering if there was anything the Dodgers could or should do to help their struggling superstar regain his past form. Then he left early on Tuesday after taking a pitch off his right elbow, leading to numbness in his right hand, and left early again on Wednesday after straining his left hamstring. Add that to the ongoing concern about his shoulder and his overall performance, and he is, quite frankly, a mess.
At the moment, we are waiting to hear about the results of his hamstring MRI, but discussing what teams ought to do with player injuries is always a tricky subject. We’re not doctors — most of us, anyway — and even if we were, we do not have access to the player or their medical records. So to say that the Dodgers “must” do this or that with Kemp, from our perspective, comes across as not being fully informed, because we are not.
Still, we can speculate on what we know right now, and what we know is that the last few days have been just a disaster for Kemp in every possible way. On Tuesday morning, I said that I didn’t think simply sending Kemp to the disabled list was the best course of action, partially because sitting out wasn’t going to help his timing issues, and partially because the center field options behind him were so lousy. (Chad Moriyama echoes largely the same concerns about center field depth in a rundown today.) That was before the last two days, and so the thinking there has changed for me.
So no matter what, the Dodgers are in a bad spot. They can either keep running Kemp out there, getting poor performance from a banged-up player, or they can turn to players who are either not really center fielders (Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig), not really likely to do better overall than even 2013 Kemp is (Elian Herrera, Tony Gwynn, Matt Angle, Skip Schumaker), or potentially not really ready for the big leagues (Joc Pederson).
It’s a bad situation, and a fair share of this blame does need to land on Ned Colletti for not having a better backup plan than Schumaker considering the uncertainty about Kemp. (To be completely fair, however, I don’t remember very many of us making an excessive amount of noise about this over the winter.) But poorly planned or not, the games are going to go on, so they’re going to need to do something.
If it were up to me… I would probably put Kemp on the DL. I know, I’m not a doctor and all of that I said above. It’s just that it’s not about his shoulder any longer, it’s about his elbow and his hamstring too. We saw what happened last year when he tried to push through a hamstring problem, and we all know that this offense is only going to work with a productive Kemp at the center of it. The last thing we need right now is for him to exacerbate either of those issues. If two weeks away helps him “clear his head” or whatever garbage people like to throw out there, well, fine, though I don’t really think that less playing time is going to fix his swing.
If that’s the case, then I guess I would reluctantly call up Pederson. He’s probably not a center fielder either, long-term, though he’s at least been playing there in Double-A. That’s why I say Pederson over Puig; Puig is not a center field option, no matter how much people want him to be, and the fact that people simply gloss over that continues to shock me. There’s an argument to be made for Gwynn or Herrera, since both have shown the ability to provide solid defense in center, but again neither is very appealing. (The 40-man roster, which would need to accommodate Gwynn or Pederson, is not an issue since injured reliever Shawn Tolleson could easily be moved to the 60-day DL as he recovers from back surgery.)
Again, it’s a lousy spot to be in all around. For me, the primary goal is a healthy effective Kemp as soon as possible, and if that means erring on the side of caution here, so be it — even if the replacements leave much to be desired.