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Don Mattingly really, really doesn’t want to play Matt Kemp in center field

Jun 3, 2014, 11:17 AM EDT

matt kemp getty Getty Images

Here’s how much Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is committed to keeping Matt Kemp from playing center field: Not only is Mattingly regularly playing Andre Ethier there despite his clearly being stretched range-wise, yesterday Scott Van Slyke got the nod in center field while Kemp remained in left field.

Van Slyke is 27 years old and it was the first time he’s ever started a game in center field as a big leaguer. Even in the minors he rarely played center field, spending much more time in the corner spots and at first base. In fact, last time Van Slyke played center field in the minors was way back in 2010 at Double-A.

Kemp has nearly 7,000 career innings in center field, but to keep from using him there now Mattingly is willing to make Ethier his everyday center fielder and use a career-long left fielder/first baseman like Van Slyke in center field.

Mattingly predictably explained the decision by saying that he wants to give Kemp time to get comfortable as a regular left fielder rather than moving him back and forth, but … still. Ethier is perhaps a passable center fielder if you squint very, very hard, but Van Slyke in center field isn’t even squint-able.

  1. pilonflats - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    …because kemp has been a disaster in CF this year…

    • rocketsteadman - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:50 AM

      I blame the chest tattoo of his grandparents…

  2. tbird05 - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    For a guy they plan on paying $21 mil a year through 2019, they sure don’t seem too excited about playing him at all. Must be nice to piss gold.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      That usually means you need to drink more water.

      • tbird05 - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:29 PM

        Hopefully that’s what that means…

      • mkprz - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:14 PM

        For some odd reason, that really made me laugh out loud. It did.

      • carpi2 - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:41 PM

        I love getting a good laugh from comments. I applaud you!

  3. El Bravo - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    It’s savvy managing like this that keeps their billion dollar ballclub seven games behind their rival who is sitting pretty in first place.

    • weaselpuppy - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:36 AM

      Or it could be 3 guys making a combined $60MM a season as their starting outfield can’t stay healthy and are swinging the bats like the Rays starting outfield, which costs about $8MM a year. I’d say the Marlins outfield, but they are better hitters… about $2MM a year total.

  4. nolasoxfan2012 - Jun 3, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    I had no idea how bad Kemp was as a fielder, and then I took a gander at his advanced fielding stats on Fangraphs:

    Wow. That’s an amazing collection of negative numbers…

    • sportsfan18 - Jun 3, 2014 at 5:50 PM

      Yep, I think if Donnie Baseball just left center field empty they’d do better than they would with Kemp out there…

  5. koufaxmitzvah - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    I don’t really understand the hate for Ethier in center. I watch every game, and I don’t see him messing up in center.

    Kemp, on the other hand, is having a tough go coming back from his ankle injury. That’s clear and obvious. Having said that, I was quite surprised to see Van Slyke in center, too. And then I got over it because it’s June.

  6. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:04 PM

    On the Rays it made sense that Crawford was in LF, because of BJ Upton. On the Red Sox it made sense because of Ellsbury. But on this Dodgers team, Crawford should return as the CF. Of maybe they could trade Guerrero to the Yankees for Gardner or Ellsbury.

    • octagoncito - Jun 3, 2014 at 7:22 PM

      Ha! Really? I guess that would be bad contract for bad contract, that Elsbury deal is atrocious. I’ll take Gardner just cuz his contract is nothing. In fact I’d take nothing for Kemp, I’m sure he’d do great once on another team. He just needs a change of scenery. But Guerrero? No way. Not even with his ear missing lol!

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Jun 4, 2014 at 3:56 PM

        The Dodgers have certainly proven their willingness to absorb bad contracts if it means filling a need. I actually think Gardner for Guererro would be a pretty good deal for them, considering the size of the OFs in the NLwest and the size of the contracts.

  7. hushbrother - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:07 PM

    At least Van Slyke has the center field genes.

  8. erbaodai - Jun 3, 2014 at 2:14 PM

    Puig for CF anyone?

  9. dpd2k2 - Jun 3, 2014 at 3:56 PM

    Didn’t Van Slyke play CF in Game 1 of last years NLDS ? wouldn’t that count as a game played in CF ?

  10. dodgerinpedro - Jun 3, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Aaron Gleeman, you no nothing about the dodgers, if you did, you would know Ethier is a very good centerfielder, better than kemp ever was

  11. coolbopp - Jun 3, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Ego getting in the way. Lace them up and play ball. Produce and you’ll be back in center.

  12. mkprz - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:11 PM

    Kemp needs a year in AAA to build up the confidence he needs to stress the ankle at the Major League levels.
    That is a hard injury to come back from, both physically and mentally.
    He is getting $20,000,000 year, but that is the ownership’s fault.

  13. donniedouchebag - Jun 3, 2014 at 10:58 PM

    look i have everything under control ok. my players love me so get off my back.

  14. waleo66 - Jun 4, 2014 at 3:41 AM

    Don Mattingly is a FOOL! His inept management and stupid judgements are RUINING Kemp, just as he and his stupid predecessor and mentor, (Joe Torre} ruined James Loney! Loney went to Florida, where they left him alone, and now he’s doing quite well, thank you!
    The more I see of Mattingly, the more I recognize that he is a petty, vindictive, and basically stupid character, who has NO business managing this club! The sooner the ownership realizes that and gets rid of him, the better. I just hope it happens before he can destroy the team’s chances for this year.

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