Matt Kemp’s second stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers was not supposed to go like this. After being acquired as part of a salary dump trade with the Atlanta Braves, few expected Kemp to be with the Dodgers when spring training began.
Kemp not only reported to camp with Los Angeles, but managed to turn in a vintage performance this spring. In 43 at-bats entering Thursday’s game, Kemp has hit .302 with four home runs.
That performance has ensured Kemp will make the final 25-man roster, but it could mean more for the former Dodgers superstar. He might hit in the No. 3 spot in the order on opening day, according to Los Angeles Times reporter Andy McCullough.
Matt Kemp is probably gonna bat third for the Dodgers on Opening Day. What a time to be alive.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) March 22, 2018
The Dodgers are set to take on the San Francisco Giants, who will start lefty Madison Bumgarner. If Dave Roberts wants to avoid using Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger back-to-back against Bumgarner, that opens the door for Kemp to slot into the No. 3 spot in the order on opening day, according to McCullough. That should come as quite the surprise for those who believed the Dodgers would try to ship Kemp’s contract away during the offseason.
The team reportedly did just that, but found no takers. Kemp came to camp motivated, reportedly losing 40 pounds, and has performed well thus far. He’s expected to split time in the outfield with either Joc Pederson or Andrew Toles during the regular season. That should lead to plenty of starts against lefties, as both Pederson and Toles hit from the left side.
Kemp’s position in the No. 3 spot in the order could be temporary. Once Justin Turner returns from his wrist injury, Kemp may be pushed lower in the order. That could take a month, though. If Kemp can stay healthy and produce, he could be the primary No. 3 hitter against lefties for at least a couple weeks.
Kemp has experienced some decline since leaving the Dodgers in 2015, but is still capable of producing at the plate. He hit .276/.318/.463 with 19 home runs for the Braves last season.
With Kemp in better shape this year, there’s a chance he manages to regain his old form with his old team. Even if it’s only in a part-time role, Kemp getting a storybook finish in Hollywood seems fitting.
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