All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers lineup on Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants, after being on the Disabled List for a strained hamstring since May 29th. At the time he hit the DL he was hitting .251/.305/.640 on the season, and just .143/.217/.262 in his last 12 games.
With two outfielders out, Kemp and Carl Crawford, the Dodgers were forced to put together a patchwork outfield. Andre Ethier was moved from right field to center, Yasiel Puig was called up and put in right, Scott Van Slyke played in left before getting injured, Skip Schumaker manned center for a handful of games, and even Elian Herrera got some outfield action.
The Dodgers were 11-13 in 24 games without Kemp.
He was not producing much before the DL stint and many attributed it to his offseason shoulder injury, saying that he had not fully recovered, and still needed to find his swing.
Don Mattingly was confident before Monday’s game that Kemp is ready to play and produce for the Dodgers. "Going (to the DL) when you're struggling gives you a chance to work on your swing" he said, "(It) gets you away from the daily thing of trying to fix it, trying to fix it, puts some time underneath you feel like you can work on some things"
But, Mattingly made it clear he did not want Kemp on the roster unless he was ready, "we had a pretty good discussion about it, making sure he was 100 percent and all and he could turn it loose as far as hitting. He is saying that nothing is going on with his shoulder, nothing is going on with his legs, he says he feels 100 percent ready to roll. "
Matt Kemp is considered by many to be the heart of the Dodgers roster, but it is important to have him at full health, "we don't need Matt Kemp coming back as a rehab player. We need him to come back Matt Kemp," Mattingly said. “You get the chance to have one of the best players in the game back in your lineup,” but it does not help if he is not ready to play.
In Kemp’s return the Dodgers lineup looks impressive. The 2-6 batters on Monday were Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier. "We've been saying we are pretty much full strength, this kinda puts us there. Obviously carl is not back yet, but we kinda inserted Yasiel there so we will figure that out when Carl gets back."
Kemp went 1-4 in his return with a single, a run scored and a game-saving catch for the final out.
He played with a lot of energy, celebrating when he crossed the plate to score a run, and slapping the outfield fence hard after making his fantastic grab to end the game.
Even before the game Kemp showed how excited he was to be back with the team. When a team official asked him how he was feeling he said, “I feel like a millionaire!”
Well, Matt Kemp, you already are a millionaire. Now it is time for you to play like one.