Two reasons to stick with Matt Kemp: Jeter and Pujols

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
5:53
PM PT
LOS ANGELES – Derek Jeter slid into second base, called timeout and had a few seconds to chat with Baltimore Orioles second baseman Jerry Hairston Jr.

Like the rest of baseball at that time -- late May of 2004 -– Hairston was aware of how badly the New York Yankees captain was struggling.

Through 184 at-bats, Jeter was hitting .190 and -– yes -– getting booed at Yankee Stadium.

“I turned to him and said, 'DJ, you all right?,'" Hairston said. “He goes, ‘Oh yeah. I’m a bad boy.’ And that’s the mindset you want.”

Matt Kemp said he has had conversations with several future Hall of Fame players as his struggles have dragged through the season’s first two months. He wouldn’t say who he has spoken to, but he said they’ve all given him the same advice.

“That I can hit and you’ve got to believe you can hit and it’ll come back,” Kemp said. "All I’m going to do is continue to work, grind this thing out and continue to try and help my team in any way possible.”

Kemp, 28, is batting .253 with two home runs, 17 RBIs and a .637 OPS in his first 186 at-bats. On Tuesday, for the first time since 2010, Kemp was not hitting second, third or fourth for the Dodgers in a game he started. Don Mattingly moved him into the No. 5 hole.

If he wants to have another such conversation with a Hall of Fame-caliber player, he won’t have to get all the way to second base tonight. Angels first baseman Albert Pujols was batting .227 with a .646 OPS after his first 185 at-bats. He didn’t hit his first home run as an Angel until May 6.

A year ago, reporters were asking Kemp about Pujols’ struggles and whether he had become a better player than Pujols.

“I was like, ‘Hell no, are you serious?’" Kemp said.

By the end of last season, Pujols was batting .285 with 30 home runs and 105 RBIs -- career lows, but far from shabby.

“That’s not bad,” Kemp said. “If I can do that, that’s a successful season right there, I think.”

In 2004, by the way, Jeter rebounded to bat .292 with 111 runs scored.

Hairston took to Twitter Tuesday afternoon and sent the following message to his followers: “Our CF is coming off a tough surgery. keep believing in @TheRealMattKemp and all us.”

Hairston has had surgery on his left shoulder and said it can take months to regain full trust in it. He said he tweeted support because he didn’t want the booing to get out of hand.

“I didn’t want it to become the chic thing to do,” Hairston said. “Matt has given this city so much at such a young age. I see how much Matt puts into it.”

Here are lineups for Tuesday night's game against the Angels:

Angels
1. Erick Aybar SS
2. Mike Trout CF
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Mark Trumbo LF
5. Josh Hamilton RF
6. Howie Kendrick 2B
7. Alberto Callaspo 3B
8. Chris Iannetta C
9. Joe Blanton RHP

Dodgers
1. Carl Crawford LF
2. Mark Ellis 2B
3. Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4. Andre Ethier RF
5. Matt Kemp CF
6. A.J. Ellis C
7. Juan Uribe 3B
8. Luis Cruz SS
9. Hyun-Jin Ryu LHP

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

WINS LEADER
Clayton Kershaw
WINS ERA SO IP
21 1.77 239 198
OTHER LEADERS
BAY. Puig .296
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239