All indications are that Matt Kemp is going to be activated from the disabled list today, and if he is, he’ll most likely be in the starting lineup tonight.
I have no idea what Kemp can contribute, because the reports from his latest rehab have just been so all over the place, from the 0-for-18 with a walk performance with Rancho Cucamonga to the four homers in a simulated game to the time just ten days ago when we thought he was done for the season. It’s not realistic to say that any of us can really have expectations for him, not with how much of a disaster 2013 has been for Kemp, and not when he’s had exactly five MLB plate appearances in more than two months, all coming in that lone July 21 game in Washington when he seemingly destroyed his ankle.
That game was so long ago that the Dodger victory over the Nationals that day put them into a tie for first place with Arizona, and the Dodgers now have a 10.5 game lead over the Diamondbacks as they kick off a four game set tonight. (Technically the magic number is four, but it’s really two for the next few days, since they’re facing one another head-to-head and there’s no way to have a Dodger win without a corresponding Diamondbacks loss.)
Now Kemp is likely ready to give it another shot, and the team he returns to is a very different one than the one he left. It’s a team that’s certain to make the playoffs, but one that’s also dropped eight of its last eleven games, as Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier have all missed time due to injury, as Clayton Kershaw has been good but not his usual elite, as Paco Rodriguez looks tired, as Ricky Nolasco finally had the implosion start we probably all figured was coming, as A.J. Ellis continues to struggle, and as a team supposedly in the hunt for the best record in the National League actually started an outfield of Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumaker, and Chili Buss on September 15. (!)
Kemp’s (assumed) return isn’t going to change all that, though as I’ve said I’m not going to worry all that much about what guys who have no role in October like Buss or Onelki Garcia or Stephen Fife do right now. If he’s the Kemp we saw for most of the first two months before his injury, it might even drag things down further. But he just might be the healthiest regular outfielder right now, and as the Dodgers still have a pretty solid amount of buffer time before the playoffs, it’s more than worth seeing what he can do.
This team needs some health and some energy right now. I’m not sure if Kemp can provide both or even just one. I do think it’d be foolish to forget that it wasn’t all that long ago that he was in the conversation for the best player in baseball, and so there’s nothing but upside here. Bring it on, Matt. (I hope.)